Category Archives: Privacy

InSecurityWatch: Nukes, wars, threats, & more


We begin with the latest major move in Cold War 2.0 from the New York Times:

U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sprawling new plant here in a former soybean field makes the mechanical guts of America’s atomic warheads. Bigger than the Pentagon, full of futuristic gear and thousands of workers, the plant, dedicated last month, modernizes the aging weapons that the United States can fire from missiles, bombers and submarines.

It is part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. A recent federal study put the collective price tag, over the next three decades, at up to a trillion dollars.

This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for “a nuclear-free world” and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy. The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads.

And on with the major MENA hot zone with Reuters:

Islamic State urges attacks on U.S., French citizens, taunts Obama

Islamic State urged its followers on Monday to attack citizens of the United States, France and other countries which have joined a coalition to destroy the ultra-radical group.

Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani also taunted U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western “crusaders” in a statement carried by the SITE monitoring website, saying their forces faced inevitable defeat at the insurgents’ hands.

The United States is building an international coalition to combat the extremist Sunni Muslim force, which has seized large expanses of territory in Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a caliphate erasing borders in the heart of the Middle East.

A response from North of the Border with Canadian Press:

Stephen Harper vows to do more at home and abroad to counter extremism as ISIS accuses Canada of meddling

Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to do more both at home and abroad to counter Islamic extremism Monday in response to a new threat levelled directly at Canada.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham issued a new audio recording late Sunday calling for jihadists to kill westerners — military or civilian — from countries involved in the battle against ISIS in northern Iraq, including “Canadians.”

Security agencies have been tracking these events for some time, Harper told a news conference.

“We have, as you know, strengthened laws in this country to deal with these kinds of threats,” he said. “We are currently in the process of examining these laws and examining other means we may have to monitor and to take action against both organizations and individuals who may undertake activities that are potentially threatening to Canadians.”

Another response via the Associated Press:

UN to bind nations on new foreign terrorist rules

The U.N. Security Council is expected to adopt a binding resolution this week that would require nations to bar their citizens from traveling abroad to join terrorism organizations, part of a U.S.-led effort to galvanize the international community against what Obama administration officials call an “unprecedented” threat from extremists flocking to Syria and Iraq.

Obama administration officials touted the measure, which they said had been negotiated over several months, as a significant step in their strategy against the Islamic State group and other militant organizations that are drawing Europeans, Americans into their violent orbit. But they acknowledged that the UN resolution has no enforcement mechanism and that the international community has no single definition of what constitutes a terrorist group.

“This is really designed to sort of elevate the collective nature of the threat,” a senior Obama administration official told a group of reporters Monday, speaking under ground rules that she not be identified.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers another:

Australia says deploying warplanes to join Iraq campaign

Australian warplanes are being deployed to the Middle East to join the US-led campaign of air strikes on jihadist targets in northern Iraq, Defence Minister David Johnston said on Monday (Sep 22).

“We will provide a number of military platforms, up to eight Super Hornet aircraft to participate in a US-led coalition in delivering air strikes,” he told reporters in Baghdad after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Sep 14 that Australia would send fighter jets and forces to the United Arab Emirates as its contribution to the US-led military effort against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

While Want China Times covers an ancillary front:

East Turkestan separatists training with ISIS, plan to return to China

Members of China’s East Turkestan independence movement are heading to the Middle East to train and fight alongside the Islamic State, the brutal jihadist group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), reports the Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Based on a joint interview with anti-terrorism authorities in China, Indonesia, Turkey and Syria, it is believed that the Chinese separatists — ethnic Uyghur radicals who want to establish an independent Islamic state in northwestern China’s restive Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region — are sneaking out of the country to join Islamic State forces training and fighting in Iraq and Syria. Their aims are to earn more recognition from international terrorist groups, establish communication channels, and to develop “real combat experience” before taking their knowledge back to China, the Global Times said, adding that the international community, including the Chinese government, must cooperate and share intelligence to eradicate the growing global terrorism threat.

News of Chinese nationals joining Islamic State forces have been on the rise in recent weeks. Earlier this month, two photos posted on a Facebook page purportedly operated by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence showed a badly beaten man apparently captured by the Iraqi Army, along with a short message describing the man as a Chinese member of the Islamic State.

From the Guardian, a potential stumbling block:

MoD facing legal challenge over armed drone deployment outside Afghanistan

  • News comes amid claims RAF’s Reaper squadron could operate against jihadists in the Middle East

The government is facing a legal challenge over the deployment of its armed drones as British officials come before a United Nations inquiry this week into the legality of targeted killings.

Amid claims the RAF’s Reaper squadron could move from Afghanistan to operate against jihadists in the Middle East, Whitehall has been criticised for its reluctance to engage with the Geneva-based investigation.

The Ministry of Defence has repeatedly refused to state what it intends to do with the 10 Reapers – controlled remotely from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and a USAF base in Creech, Nevada – once UK operations in Afghanistan finish in December.

While TheLocal.it throws in a wild card:

‘Israelis support using atomic bomb against Isis’

The majority of Israeli citizens back using an atomic bomb in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has claimed.

Speaking to supporters by the shores of Lake Garda, Berlusconi said there is “great anguish within the Israeli population” over the rise of Isis jihadists.

“I can’t reveal my sources, but I can tell you with certainty that at the moment the majority of Israeli citizens are thinking it’s correct to defend themselves with the atomic bomb,” he was quoted in Corriere della Sera as saying.

Motherboard has a blast from the past:

The CIA Used Artificial Intelligence to Interrogate Its Own Agents in the 80s

The CIA has notoriously been, well, “innovative” in developing new interrogation techniques (if you consider waterboarding an innovation, at least). Newly declassified documents reveal that willingness to experiment is nothing new: 30 years ago, the spy agency pitted one of its own agents against an artificial intelligence interrogator.

The documents in question, written in 1983 and titled “Interrogation of an Alleged CIA Agent,” describe a series of experimental tests conducted in the early 1980s in which the CIA repeatedly interrogated its own agent, referred to in the report as Joe Hardesty, using a primitive AI called Analiza.

The declassified document is both fascinating in its distinct retrofuture flavour and eerily prescient nature, because the US government is now set to use virtual entities to conduct national security interviews. It’s also kind of hilarious, because the interrogation transcript reads like a conversation with a really frustrating chatbot.

While the Washington Post finds the very curious in the nation’s capital:

Tech firm tries to pull back curtain on surveillance efforts in Washington

As a black sedan pulled into downtown Washington traffic earlier this week, a man in the back seat with a specially outfitted smartphone in each hand was watching for signs of surveillance in action. “Whoa, we’ve just been hit twice on this block,” he said, excitement rising in his voice, not far from FBI headquarters.

Then as the car passed the Federal Trade Commission’s limestone edifice, “Okay, we just got probed.” Then again, just a few minutes later, as the car moved between the Supreme Court and the Capitol, he said, “That’s the beginning of an interception.”

The man was Aaron Turner, chief executive of Integricell, a mobile security company. The specially outfitted smartphones, he said, are designed to act like high-tech divining rods that warn users of suspicious mobile activity, potentially indicating surveillance equipment used by police, intelligence agencies and others to track people and snoop on their calls.

Known as IMSI catchers, for the unique identifying phone code called an IMSI, the surveillance devices trick mobile phones into thinking they have logged onto legitimate cell networks, such as Verizon or AT&T, when in fact the signals have been hijacked.

A video report from RT:

Capitol Surveillance: Unidentified tracking devices found in Washington

Program notes

The US capital is flooded with phone calls and other data on a daily basis but all of it is being intercepted by sources unknown. RT’s Gayane Chichakyan reports.

From the Los Angeles Times, one surveillance camera we heartily endorse:

L.A. County sheriff’s deputies test 4 types of body cameras

As a patrol deputy at Carson station, Dennis Conway carried an audio recorder to document what happened when he stopped or arrested someone.

The recorder was his own — he was among a sizable group of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who carry their own personal devices to protect themselves from false allegations.

A few weeks ago, Conway exchanged his audio recorder for a high-tech camera pinned to his shirt that starts filming at the press of a button.

“It’s given me the peace of mind that the person I’m dealing with is not going to say the opposite of what happened,” he said. “It’s all recorded, and the transparency is there.”

Conway and other deputies have begun testing four types of body cameras as part of a pilot program that may eventually lead to the department-wide recording of everything from routine traffic stops to deputy-involved shootings. Until now, the Sheriff’s Department has not used in-car cameras or body cameras.

From the New York Times, good candidates for the same cameras:

Report Found Distorted Data on Jail Fights at Rikers Island

After years of teenage inmates being slashed, stabbed and maimed, it appeared that the jail for adolescents at Rikers Island had finally been brought under control. In April 2011, a new warden and deputy warden were named, and almost immediately, official tallies of inmate fights fell by two-thirds.

The correction commissioner at the time hailed the accomplishment at a City Council hearing and gave the men an award for their “exceptional efforts.” Within a month, both officials were promoted.

Then came the tip to Correction Department investigators: Violence wasn’t down. The data was wrong.

A dozen investigators eventually produced a confidential report, obtained by The New York Times, which concluded that hundreds of inmate fights had been omitted from departmental statistics; that the warden, William Clemons, and the deputy warden, Turhan Gumusdere, had “abdicated all responsibility” in reporting the statistics and that both should be demoted.

After the jump, Google malvertising and drones, Obama sells missiles to Poland and China sells ‘em to Saudis, a hint of a Zambian online crackdown to come, another kind of crackdown in Chad, spooky crisis capitalization and hints of domestic crackdown to come Down Under, protest provocation and flight contemplation in China, a stealthy development in Beijing, and a deadman’s switch for those who fear executive action. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spies, war, threats, terror


First up, via the London Telegraph, opportunity knocks:

GCHQ employs more than 100 dyslexic and dyspraxic spies

  • The British intelligence agency uses dyslexics’ ability to analyse complex information in a ‘dispassionate, logical and analytical’ in the fight against terror

While many people with dyslexia struggle with reading or writing, they are often extremely skilled at deciphering facts from patterns or events.

IT specialist Matt, 35, chairman of the dyslexic and dyspraxic support community at GCHQ, told The Sunday Times: “What people don’t realise is that people with neuro diversity usually have a ‘spikyskills’ profile, which means that certain skill areas will be below par and others may be well above,” he said.

“My reading might be slower than some individuals and maybe my spelling is appalling, and my handwriting definitely is … but if you look at the positive side, my 3D spacial-perception awareness and creativity is in the top 1% of my peer group.”

From the Christian Science Monitor, hints of escalations ahead:

Obama vows to strike Syrian regime if US jets attacking IS are targeted

The Obama administration said it would destroy Syria’s air defenses if they fire on US planes attacking Islamic State militants inside Syria. The White House says it won’t coordinate airstrikes with Damascus.

The Obama administration has threatened to destroy the Syrian government’s air defenses if US warplanes flying missions to attack militants in Syria are targeted over the country’s air space.

The public threat is an example of the difficult waters Mr. Obama is wading into with his plan to “destroy” the self-styled Islamic State, which is fighting to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The White House insists that its effort will neither help Mr. Assad nor involve his cooperation, more than three years into Syria’s civil war.

Syrian war-planes and helicopters are already flying missions against IS and other rebel groups, and without coordination between Syrian and US forces, the risk of accidental engagements is high.

Reuters covers an exodus:

Islamic State closes in on Syrian town, refugees flood into Turkey

Islamic State militants tightened their noose on a northern Syrian border town on Sunday as the United Nations said the number of Syrian Kurds fleeing into neighbouring Turkey may have topped 100,000 and was likely to go much higher.

Residents fleeing the frontier town of Ayn al-Arab, known in Kurdish as Kobani, and its surrounding villages said the militants were executing people of all ages in the areas they had seized to create a climate of fear and slavish obedience.

Kurdish politicians in Turkey renewed their appeal to young people in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast to head to Kobani to help their ethnic kin push back Islamic State, which has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months and proclaimed a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

Deutsche Welle covers a consequence:

Security clashes with Kurds on Turkey-Syria border

Turkish troops have fired water cannon and tear gas at Kurdish demonstrators during clashes on the Turkey-Syria border. Some 70,000 Syrians fleeing the “Islamic State” have now crossed into Turkey, the UN says.

Kurds on the Turkey-Syrian border came under fire from water cannon and tear gas during clashes with Turkish security forces on Sunday. Turkish troops were attempting to disperse crowds of Kurds, which had gathered in support of fellow Kurds fleeing an “Islamic State” (IS) offensive across the border from Syria.

The clashes took place at a barbed wire border fence just five kilometers from the town of Ayn al-Arab, where Kurdish fighters are holding off jihadists.

Hundreds of young demonstrators responded by hurling rocks at security forces. Police said security forces had been trying to prevent Kurdish fighters entering Syria, but local television reported that Kurds had been trying to take aid into Syria.

An ex-spook’s reservation with the Observer:

UK urged to avoid direct military action in Syria

  • Former MI6 intelligence director Nigel Inkster warns against joining military action that could anger Assad allies

Nigel Inkster, a former deputy head of MI6, said that, although empowering rebel forces was sensible, the UK should not be tempted to join any potential military action in Syria which would antagonise the allies of President Bashar al-Assad, such as Russia. Britain has not ruled out air strikes in Iraq or Syria, but it has said targeting Isis positions in Syria would be complicated.

Inkster said: “Military activity that takes place in Iraq will take place with the consent of the Iraqi government. In the case of Syria, that is not the case … any such activity would technically be an act of war.

“You can be confident that Assad’s allies would be very quick to make this point. But from a military perspective the logic of such an engagement is inevitable because ultimately Syria is where this force needs to be defeated. The emphasis has to be on local actors, enabling local Syrian actors. They had some success previously [against Isis] but then they had logistical problems, running out of equipment just at the point Isis was acquiring new supplies.”

Another force has joined the fight against ISIS, Anonymous. The first half of this France 24 segment features an interview with one of the campaign’s organization’s [the other half is about the new iPhone, sorry]:

Anonymous Vs ISIS

Program notes:

This week #TECH24 brings you an EXCLUSIVE interview with Anonymous on why (and how) the collective decided to join the fight against the ‘Islamic State’ Group. Also in this edition: a test of the new iPhone6 and iPhone6 Plus.

ISIS continued its own war on the media report, with Sky News covering the latest barrage:

IS Releases Gruesome Full-Length Film

  • The 55-minute film, which uses special effects, graphics and slow-motion replays, shows captives digging their own graves

The propaganda war being waged by Islamic State militants has intensified, with the release of a full-length documentary-style film entitled Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun.

The 55-minute video uploaded to the internet celebrates the campaign in Iraq and Syria and shows captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves before being shot dead.

A masked IS fighter with a North American accent addresses the camera and claims to be in a captured army base. “We’re here with the soldiers of Bashar, you can see them now digging their own graves where they were stationed,” he says.

More from Canada’s National Post:

ISIS urges jihadists to attack Canadians: ‘You will not feel secure in your bedrooms’

The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham called for attacks on Canadians on Sunday in an apparent attempt to deter members of the military alliance that has formed to challenge the terrorist group.

In a 42-minute audio speech, Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani urged ISIS supporters to kill Canadians, Americans, Australians, French and other Europeans, regardless of whether they were civilians or members of the military.

“Rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling,” he said.

 

And the New York Times covers a certain mistrust:

Suspicions Run Deep in Iraq That C.I.A. and the Islamic State Are United

The United States has conducted an escalating campaign of deadly airstrikes against the extremists of the Islamic State for more than a month. But that appears to have done little to tamp down the conspiracy theories still circulating from the streets of Baghdad to the highest levels of Iraqi government that the C.I.A. is secretly behind the same extremists that it is now attacking.

“We know about who made Daesh,” said Bahaa al-Araji, a deputy prime minister, using an Arabic shorthand for the Islamic State on Saturday at a demonstration called by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to warn against the possible deployment of American ground troops. Mr. Sadr publicly blamed the C.I.A. for creating the Islamic State in a speech last week, and interviews suggested that most of the few thousand people at the demonstration, including dozens of members of Parliament, subscribed to the same theory. (Mr. Sadr is considered close to Iran, and the theory is popular there as well.)

When an American journalist asked Mr. Araji to clarify if he blamed the C.I.A. for the Islamic State, he retreated: “I don’t know. I am one of the poor people,” he said, speaking fluent English and quickly stepping back toward the open door of a chauffeur-driven SUV. “But we fear very much. Thank you!”

From the Register, eavesdropping expectations across The Pond:

New UK.gov DATA SLURPING diplomat to push US telcos to share more subscriber info

  • When a DRIP becomes a flood

The British government has appointed a senior diplomat who will act as a go-between on overseas data access jurisdiction issues, to push communication providers – particularly those based in the US – to share more information with UK spooks.

The new post, created by Prime Minister David Cameron, comes after Whitehall pushed what it said was “emergency legislation” through Parliament in July this year.

At the time, Cameron convinced MPs that the rushed Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act was needed to “preserve” surveillance tactics used by intelligence agencies and police forces in the UK.

From CBC News, the leaks continue:

Nude celebrity photo leak: More images posted to online forums

  • Leak appears connected to dozens of photos uploaded in early September

More nude photographs of celebrities were leaked online Saturday in what appears to be the second release of material from a hacker who posted intimate images of dozens of celebrities on an internet forum earlier this month.

Among the victims of the most recent leak were reality television star Kim Kardashian, actor Vanessa Hudgens and U.S. national women’s soccer team goalie Hope Solo. Previously unreleased photos of celebrities included in the last leak, such as Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence and The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco, were posted as well.

According to multiple media outlets, the images first appeared Saturday morning on the site 4Chan, and were also posted by users on Reddit, but were quickly deleted by site administrators.

And then there’s Texas, where King Leer reigns supreme. From Vice News:

Court Ruling Makes Taking Pictures Up Women’s Skirts Legal in Texas

The highest criminal court in Texas reversed a state law this week that prevented people from taking pictures up women’s skirts in public.

The law, which banned  “improper photography or visual recording,” with the “intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person,” was deemed an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and individual thought.

The act of secretly capturing lurid photography, usually aimed up women’s skirts, is commonly known as “upskirting,” and the photos are sometimes called “creepshots.” Whatever the term used to describe it, the practice is now legal in the Lone Star State after an 8-1 ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

After the jump, paramilitarizing police under investigation, an old school data takedown in Indonesia, Game of Zones trade consequences, a Sino/Iranian naval exercise, and an anti-American base protest in Japan. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day II: Loving the panopticon


From Andrew O’Hagan, writing in the London Review of Books:

The first thing that amazed me about Julian Assange was how fearful he was – and how right, as it turned out – about the internet being used as a tool to remove our personal freedom. That surprised me, because I’d naively assumed that all hackers and computer nerds were in love with the net. In fact, the smarter ones were suspicious of it and understood all along that it could easily be abused by governments and corporations. The new technology would offer the chance of mass communication and networking like never before, but lurking in all those servers and behind all those cameras was a sinister, surveilling machine of ever growing power. The US government sought omniscience – ‘a system that has as its goal the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide’ – and showed by such actions that it considers itself above the prospectus set out in its own constitution. The leaders of the NSA said, ‘collect it all,’ and the people put up with it.

InSecurityWatch: War, warnings, spooks, cops


We open with more evidence of Cold War 2.0 from the Los Angeles Times:

NATO nuclear drawdown now seems unlikely

Last summer in Berlin, President Obama called for “bold reductions” in U.S. and Russian tactical nuclear weapons to ease the risk of annihilation in Europe.

Obama was referring to the roughly 200 B61 nuclear bombs that the U.S. has deployed in five NATO nations stretching from the Netherlands to Turkey — as well as an even larger Russian arsenal estimated at 2,000 tactical weapons.

But since last summer, that hopeful outlook has evaporated. Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and nuclear threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin have killed any chance that the U.S. would withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons any time soon.

“Withdrawing our relatively few weapons would be the absolute wrong signal at this moment,” said James Stavridis, the retired U.S. admiral who served as NATO chief until 2013 and is now dean of the Fletcher School of international affairs at Tufts University.

While those with the missiles have woes of their own, via the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Executive officer of USS Cowpens relieved of duties

The Navy announced Friday that the executive officer of the San Diego-based USS Cowpens has been relieved of his duties, the third member of the ship’s leadership team to be ousted in 2014.

Cmdr. Armando Ramirez lost his position on the guided-missile cruiser on Sept. 18 due to an “alcohol-related incident,” the Navy said in a statement.

On June 10, the Navy ousted the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Gregory W. Gombert, and Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton, the ship’s command master chief. The reason given at the time was poor ship conditions.

The 567-foot Cowpens, nicknamed Mighty Moo, returned to San Diego in April from a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

A Navy investigation made public in August said that during the middle of the deployment, Gombert retreated to his cabin for several weeks for a health-related seclusion, and that he had an improper relationship with the cruiser’s acting executive officer.

From the horrific to the ludicrous with the Guardian:

‘Terror doodles’ prompt removal of Australian man from Tiger flight

  • Interior designer, 28, wrote ‘Terrorismadeup’ in notebook
  • Australian government set to introduce new terror powers

An Australian man claimed he was taken off a commercial flight on Saturday after doodles he was making in a notebook were deemed to represent a terrorist threat.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tiger Airways staff escorted Oliver Buckworth, a 28-year-old Melbourne-based interior designer, from a flight bound for the Gold Coast after a passenger reported the doodles.

Australian Federal Police said they had “responded to a request for assistance” from Tiger Airways. The Herald said it had seen a page of the notebook in question, which contained the sentence: “In a land of melting ice-creams, sandy feet and fluffy bears, how could anyone be fearful of terrorism.”

BBC News covers mass flight:

Syria crisis: 66,000 ‘flee Islamic State’ into Turkey

Some 66,000 refugees – mainly Syrian Kurds – have crossed into Turkey in 24 hours, officials say, as Islamic State militants advance in northern Syria.

Turkey opened its border on Friday to Syrians fleeing the Kurdish town of Kobane in fear of an IS attack.

The UN refugee agency said it was boosting relief efforts as hundreds of thousands more could cross the border.

While the Associated Press covers curious flight:

Turkish hostages freed, but questions linger

Turkish authorities say they have freed 49 hostages from one of the world’s most ruthless militant groups without firing a shot, paying a ransom or offering a quid pro quo.

But as the well-dressed men and women captured by the Islamic State group more than three months ago clasped their families Saturday on the tarmac of the Turkish capital’s airport, experts had doubts about the government’s story.

The official explanation “sounds a bit too good to be true,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who chairs the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies. “There are some very legitimate and unanswered questions about how this happened.”

More from the McClatchy Foreign Staff:

Islamic State releases 49 hostages to Turkey

The 49 were taken hostage at the Turkish mission in Mosul, Iraq, the day the city fell to the Islamic State. They were held in or near Mosul during their entire 101 days of captivity, Turkish officials told McClatchy, then driven into Syria Friday night, where they released early Saturday morning in Tal Abyad, a border town.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu broke off a trip to Azerbaijan and flew to Sanliurfa in southern Turkey to greet the hostages, who arrived at the airport in two buses with the window curtains drawn.

The hostages, who included consul general Ozturk Yilmaz, other diplomats, their spouses, two infants, as well as special forces soldiers, appeared in remarkably good condition when they arrived at Sanliurfa airport _ the men in jackets and ties and the women in freshly pressed dresses. Most of the men had grown beards, but all were well-groomed.

Terrorism woes in Malaysia via Channel NewsAsia Singapore:

PM Lee highlights IS, rising nationalism in Asia as international concerns

At a dialogue session on Saturday (Sep 20), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East and rising nationalism in Asia as key worries on the international front

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has outlined two key worries on the international front – the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the Middle East, and rising nationalism in Asia which could upset the conditions for growth in the region. He was speaking at a dialogue session at “The Singapore Summit” on Saturday (Sep 20) at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Singapore has yet to decide on how it can support the US-led effort against IS in the Middle East. Responding to questions at a dialogue, Mr Lee said there is no solution to the IS problem in terms of taking them out or putting military forces on the ground.

“You can’t really change fundamentally the texture of the society and the people there and when you are gone, the problem will come back. So that is a very difficult problem in the Middle East,” he said.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, spooky apprehensions:

German lawmakers remain concerned about U.S. spying

German lawmakers who took part in an international intelligence forum this week left the country disappointed that members of the U.S. Congress were not more receptive to their concerns about U.S. spying on European allies.

The German lawmakers were among more than 100 members of parliaments and ambassadors from 24 nations who took part in a closed-door three-day intelligence security forum held at the Library of Congress. The goal was to address allies concerns about U.S. surveillance and discuss shared objectives in light of growing threat from groups such as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

A range of opinions were expressed and most appeared to agree the dialog was a positive step. The British lawmakers were most appreciative of the U.S. role in aiding Europe, according to attendees. The Germans and Austrians pressed the hardest on U.S. spying. Delegates from Georgia, Latvia, Moldova were concerned about dangers surrounding the Ukraine and Russia.

And from the Washington Post, business as usual:

DHS headquarters project faces more cost overruns, missed deadlines, GAO says

The construction of a massive new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security, already more than $1.5 billion over budget and 11 years behind schedule, may face even more overruns and missed deadlines because the government has still not developed reliable cost estimates, federal auditors said Friday.

In a report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office said DHS and the General Services Administration should consider alternatives to the plan to locate the headquarters complex on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital, a onetime psychiatric facility with a panoramic view of the District. The project, billed as critical for national security and the revitalization of Southeast Washington, calls for renovating dozens of historic buildings, but it has been starved of funds and only one new structure has opened.

“Creating reliable cost and schedule estimates for the headquarters consolidation project should be an integral part of DHS and GSA efforts to reassess the project,’‘ the report said. “Without this information . . . the project risks potential cost overruns, missed deadlines, and performance shortfalls.’‘

After the jump, Portland police racism, police protest via gridiron disruption in St Louis, aid for the Wizard of Wikileaks, angry farmers disrupt French security, Indian media insecurity, ancient wounds rankle in Korea, Sino/Indian border and oceanic tensions heat up, and a curious worry on the shores of San Frnacisco Bay. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, cops, wars, feints


We begin with the utterly outrageous via Motherboard:

The Navy Routinely Spies on Citizens Then Helps the Police Prosecute Them

It’s not just the NSA: A Federal Appeals Court has just noted a disturbing and “extraordinary” trend of the Navy conducting mass surveillance on American civilians, and then using what they find to help local law enforcement prosecute criminals.

In this specific case, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent in George scanned the computers of every civilian in Washington state who happened to be using the decentralized Gnutella peer-to-peer network, looking for child pornography. The agent, Steve Logan, found child porn on a computer owned by a man named Michael Dreyer.

Logan then passed his evidence on to local law enforcement, who arrested and eventually convicted Dreyer, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The US Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that this was a massive overstep of military authority, a disturbing trend, and a blatant violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that prohibits the military from conducting investigations on civilians.

The government argued that it conducted the surveillance on the off chance that it caught a military member violating the law and suggested that it has this authority in any state with a military base.

From the Associated Press, serious Snowden blowback [or so they would have us believe]:

AP EXCLUSIVE: CIA halts spying in Europe

The CIA has curbed spying on friendly governments in Western Europe in response to the furor over a German caught selling secrets to the United States and the Edward Snowden revelations of classified information held by the National Security Agency, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The pause in decades of espionage, which remains partially in effect, was designed to give CIA officers time to examine whether they were being careful enough and to evaluate whether spying on allies is worth running the risk of discovery, said a U.S. official who has been briefed on the situation.

Under the stand-down order, case officers in Europe largely have been forbidden from undertaking “unilateral operations” such as meeting with sources they have recruited within allied governments. Such clandestine meetings are the bedrock of spying.

From the London Daily Mail, ah yes, those folks:

‘He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness': The inappropriate remarks made by CIA supervisors during performance reviews declassified after decades

  • Comments were made by CIA supervisors during appraisals in the 1980s
  • Feature misused vocabulary, odd phrases and inadvertent connotations
  • Include: ‘He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness’, ‘I both like and dislike this officer’ and ‘Although unmarried she has growth potential’
  • Quotes among hundreds of documents declassified by agency yesterday

And from Gizmodo, Old Spook ties?:

Larry Ellison’s Oracle Started As a CIA Project

Yesterday, Vox somehow managed to write an entire article about the history of Oracle and its founder Larry Ellison without mentioning the CIA even once. Which is pretty astounding, given the fact that Oracle takes its name from a 1977 CIA project codename. And that the CIA was Oracle’s first customer.

Vox simply says that Oracle was founded in “the late 1970s” and “sells a line of software products that help large and medium-sized companies manage their operations.” All of which is true! But as the article continues, it somehow ignores the fact that Oracle has always been a significant player in the national security industry. And that its founder would not have made his billions without helping to build the tools of our modern surveillance state.

“Recognizing the potential demand for a commercial database product, [Ellison] founded the company that became Oracle in 1977,” Vox writes, conspicuously omitting the whole “because CIA wanted a relational database” part of the history.

From BuzzFeed, the revolving door moves to the bedroom:

Wife: NSA Official. Husband: Exec At Firm Seeming To Do Or Seek Business With NSA

  • NSA: It’s secret.

A large government contracting firm that appears to be doing or seeking business with the National Security Agency employs the spouse of one of the most powerful officials at the agency, according to corporate records, press releases, and company websites. But the NSA has declined to address whether there is a potential conflict of interest or to disclose any information about contracts or the official’s financial holdings.

The spouse, for years, has also had an intelligence technology company incorporated at the couple’s suburban residence in Maryland.

The NSA official, Teresa H. Shea, is director of the Signals Intelligence Directorate, which means she oversees electronic eavesdropping for intelligence purposes. She’s held that crucial position since 2010. SIGINT, as it is called, is the bread and butter of NSA espionage operations, and it includes intercepting and decoding phone calls, whether cellular or landline; radio communications; and internet traffic. Shea’s directorate was involved in the controversial domestic surveillance program, much of which was revealed by Edward Snowden.

As for Shea’s husband, James, he is currently a vice president at DRS Signal Solutions, part of DRS Technologies, a major American defense contracting company owned by the Italian defense giant Finmeccanica. On his LinkedIn page, he boasts of his “core focus” in “SIGINT systems,” and cites his employer, DRS, for its work in “signals intelligence, cyber, and commercial test and measurement applications.”

Next, a new feint in Cold War 2.0 from the London Telegraph:

US sends jets to intercept Russian aircraft

  • American and Canadian jets scrambled after six Russian aircraft entered the US’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ)

On Wednesday, six Russian aircraft entered the United States’ air defense identification zone (ADIZ), an area beyond sovereign U.S. airspace, according to a statement from NORAD, a US and Canadian aerospace command, and US Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

In response, “two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets acting under the authority of NORAD identified and intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the ADIZ, west of Alaska,” the statement said.

On Thursday, Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Canadian ADIZ.

From the Guardian, when your secrets aren’t your secrets:

California judge rules against privacy advocate and protects police secrecy

  • Man loses bid to access to police license plate records in case with repercussions on surveillance and government databases

A California judge’s initial ruling against a tech entrepreneur, who seeks access to records kept secret in government databases detailing the comings and goings of millions of cars in the San Diego area, via license plate scans, was the second legal setback within a month for privacy advocates.

The tentative decision issued Thursday upheld the right of authorities to block the public from viewing information collected on their vehicles, by way of vast networks that rely on cameras mounted on stoplights and police cars.

The rapidly expanding systems and their growing databases have been the subject of a larger debate pitting privacy rights against public safety concerns in a new frontier over high-tech surveillance. A Los Angeles judge ruled in August that city police and sheriff’s departments don’t have to disclose records from the 3m plates they scan each week.

From Reuters, piling on political fortunes at home plunge:

French jets strike in Iraq, expanding U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State

French jets struck a suspected Islamic State target in Iraq for the first time on Friday, expanding a U.S.-led military campaign against militants who have seized a third of the country and also control large parts of neighboring Syria.

President Francois Hollande said Rafale jets hit “a logistics depot of the terrorists” near the city of Mosul, which has been held by Islamic State for more than three months. It promised more operations in coming days.

The French military action, which follows U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq and near the capital Baghdad, appeared to win qualified endorsement from Iraq’s top Shi’ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

From the Associated Press, indeed:

Islamic State plot in Australia raises questions

The Islamic State plot to carry out random beheadings in Sydney alleged by police is a simple and barbaric scheme that has shaken Australians. But terrorism experts on Friday questioned whether the ruthless movement had the capacity or inclination to sustain a terror campaign so far from the Middle East.

Some terrorism experts saw the plot as a potential shift in Islamic State’s focus from creating an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. Others, including Professor of International Relations and Security Studies at Murdoch University, Samuel Makinda, said it is more likely a symptom of policy confusion within a disparate group.

“If you have people coming in from different backgrounds from all these countries, when it comes to policy making, they’re going to fight each other, they’re going to kill each other,” Makinda said.

“On ISIS, I see no direct threat to Australia or to any other country at the moment except those in the Middle East,” he added.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers political theater:

Australia terror crackdown sees armed police in parliament

Australia deployed armed police inside parliament on Friday (Sep 19) in the face of extremist threats, ramping up an anti-terror crackdown after foiling a plot by Islamic State militants to carry out gruesome “demonstration executions” in the country.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott called an emergency meeting of his national security committee after urging Australians not to be intimidated by murderous plots, including beheadings. “All levels of government will do whatever we humanely can to keep our community safe,” he told a press conference. “The best way for people to respond to the threat of terror is to go about their normal lives,” Abbott said. “Terrorists want to scare us out of being ourselves. There will be armed federal police in and around our national parliament at all times.”

The prime minister has refused to link the latest threats against Australia to the nation’s role in fighting the Islamic State organisation in Iraq. He refuses to use the word “state” and brands the group a “death cult”.

From the Guardian, applying stick to hornet’s nest:

Anti-Islam ad campaign to run on New York City buses and subways

  • Blogger paid $100,000 to place ads, one of which was rejected by MTA on grounds it could ‘incite or provoke violence’

Controversial blogger and activist Pamela Geller has paid $100,000 to place advertisements on New York City buses and in subway stations that feature anti-Islamic messages and images including one of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by Isis in August.

The campaign, which is being funded by Geller’s advocacy group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AMDI), features six posters including the one that features Foley. All the posters carry messages critical of Islam. One features a picture of Adolf Hitler.

This is not the first time Geller’s organisation has used posters on New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s ad space to court controversy. In 2012, her organisation paid for posters to appear in ten New York subway stations.

After the jump, spawning a boom for drones, tanks-but-no-tanks at San Diego schools, killing on a Pakistani campus, troubling ghosts from the Korean/Japanese past, and troubling memories of a bloody British hand in Asia. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spooks, hacks, war, weapons


For the first item in today’s compendium pf the world of spies, snoops, cops, crimes, wars, geopolitics, hackery, and the like, we turn to reassurance from the Guardian:

CIA chief: ‘If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it’

  • John Brennan expresses frustration with Senate and media while decrying lack of trust in agency at intelligence conference

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency expressed frustration with his Senate overseers and the media on Thursday, even as he and his fellow heads of US intelligence agencies pledged to win back the trust of a skeptical American public.

“I certainly believe having the public’s trust makes all of our jobs much easier and better,” Brennan said on a panel at an intelligence conference, where he was joined by his colleagues at the helms of the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But ahead of an impending clash with the Senate intelligence committee, which is due to release a public version of a report into CIA torture in the coming weeks, Brennan rejected “the narratives I see floating around the media.”

From Gigaom, someone’s takin’ a bit out of the Apple:

Apple’s “warrant canary” disappears, suggesting new Patriot Act demands

When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

Writer and cyber-activist Cory Doctorow at the time recognized that language as a so-called “warrant canary,” which Apple was using to thwart the secrecy imposed by the Patriot Act.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request.

Now, Apple’s warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company’s last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the “canary” language is no longer there.

From the Register, score another one for Edward the Leaker:

Snowden’s NSA leaks have galvanised the storage world

  • Vendors raise their game after gov securo-busting revealed

In a recent CyberArk survey of 373 C-level and IT security executives across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific, 37 per cent of respondents said Snowden’s breach of NSA security had influenced their security strategy more than any other incident over the past year.

Difficult decisions are having to be made across industries. Where and how to store data tops the list of priorities. Who to trust has also become a pertinent question when it comes to access management and procurement processes. Storage and security have become sexy again.

Indeed, one of the material outcomes of Snowden’s leaks has already been realised: inspired by renewed consumer and business interest in privacy, technology is becoming more secure.

From the New York Times, oversharing reported by James Bamford:

Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal

In Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

From RT, bloody irony:

GTA-ISIS: Militants hooking youngsters with ‘Jihad video game’ trailer

Islamic State (IS) militants have released a jihadist video game trailer in which the aim is to destroy Iraqi and US forces, Arabic media report. The game, styling itself as a Grand Theft Auto adaptation, appears specifically aimed at young people.

The recruitment propaganda video trailer aimed to “raise the morale of the mujahedin and to train children and youth how to battle the West and to strike terror into the hearts of those who oppose the Islamic State,” according to the media wing of the IS (formerly known as ISIS), cited in Arabic media.

“The content includes all of the organization’s military tactics against its opponents,” the Islamic state said.

Homeland Security News Wire covers an intelligence failure:

U.S. intelligence, leaders unclear on exact danger posed by ISIS

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength of the Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength ofthe Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

From the Associated Press, The Most Transparent Administration in History™ flunks the test, again:

Journalists view Obama administration’s transparency as much worse than Bush’s

Editors and reporters meeting in Chicago raised concerns Wednesday about what they described as a lack of access and transparency undermining journalists’ work, several blaming the current White House for setting standards for secrecy that are spreading nationwide.

Criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration on the issue of openness in government came on the last day of a three-day joint convention of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers.

“The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news, said during a panel discussion.

James Risen, a New York Times reporter who is facing potential jail time as he battles government efforts to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information, also spoke at the conference. Risen said intense pressure on reporters and their sources is having a chilling effect on newsgathering.

He spoke of scaring one source just by going to his home and knocking on the front door. “He opened the door and he turned white,” Risen said. “He marches me back through the kitchen [to a back exit] and said, “‘Go out that way.’”

Guns beat butter again, via the Guardian:

UN to cut food aid to Syria

Without more money, World Food Programme warns food rations will be reduced and voucher schemes slashed

The UN warned on Thursday that it will be forced to cut food rations for more than 6 million Syrians from next month unless it received more funding.

The World Food Programme said that while it still expects to reach almost 6 million Syrians inside the country and in neighbouring states in October and November, there will be significant cuts to the amount of food delivered. The WFP said it had no money for programmes in December.

A WFP official told Reuters that the food basket for Syrians could shrink to 825 calories, well under half the daily recommended intake.

From the Associated Press, bordering on sanity:

Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

The U.S. Border Patrol will begin testing body-worn cameras on agents next month, the head of its parent agency said Thursday, a step toward seeing if the technology should be used in the field as the government seeks to blunt criticism about agents’ use of force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner since March, said a variety of cameras will be tested beginning Oct. 1 at the Border Patrol’s training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.

He didn’t say when or even if cameras will be introduced to the roughly 21,000 agents in the field.

From Sky News, making a good point:

Assange: ‘Google Like A Privatised NSA’

  • Julian Assange tells Sky News the search engine gathers and files information just like America’s National Security Agency.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused Google of behaving like a “privatised version of the NSA” in the way it collects and stores information about people.

He told Sky News the internet giant was not doing anything illegal but its behaviour was highly questionable. “It is not doing things which are illegal, what it is doing is legal,” he said. “It is collecting as much information about people as possible, storing it, indexing it, and using it to create profiles of people and then selling that to advertisers and others.

“Those are the same procedures that security agencies go through. That is why the NSA has latched on top of what Google is doing. Since 2009 the NSA had been engaged in the Prism system where information collected online is available to it.”

The accompanying video from Sky News:

Julian Assange ‘Will Leave Embassy With Asylum Intact’

Program note:

Sky’s Sarah Hewson talks to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

From BuzzFeed, and reminding us of the a high school joke about the cat, who crept in, crapped, and crept out:

U.S. Company Distances Itself From Egyptian Surveillance System

  • And the website of its Egyptian affiliate is taken down.

The U.S.-based Blue Coat company has issued a statement distancing itself from a project to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and Skype in Egypt, following a BuzzFeed News report.

Egyptian officials had told BuzzFeed News that a company called See Egypt had won a tender to begin providing the government with a surveillance system that would allow them to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others. In interviews, the Egypt-based SeeEgypt called itself a “sister company” to Blue Coat, and listed the company as one of their affiliates.

Now, Blue Coat has issued a response saying that their products are not being resold to the Egyptian government.

From the Dissenter, gee, are we surprised:

Email Suggests Manufacturer of Stingray Surveillance Equipment May Have Lied to FCC

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the manufacturer of StingRay surveillance products of providing inaccurate information and possibly even lying to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is the agency that is supposed to regulate communications over cable, radio, satellite, television and wire.

Harris Corporation is one of the leading manufacturers of StingRay technology. The technology was “initially designed for the military and intelligence community” and “operates by mimicking cellular service providers’ base stations and forcing all cellular phones in range to register their electronic serial numbers and other identifying information,” according to the ACLU.

The ACLU of Northern California chapter managed to obtain a series of emails from 2010 between the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) and Harris Corporation employees, where the “equipment authorization application for law enforcement use of Harris’ StingRay line of products” is being discussed.

After the jump, a death sentence for an Iranian blogger, beating the messenger in Russia, Plasticopalypse Now!, a horrifying traffic scenario suggested, China bases more claims in troubled waters, and a top cop’s curious pal. . . 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