Category Archives: Spooks

InSecurityWatch: Drones, bombs, cops, hacks


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

Program notes:

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.
Nerve Centre

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

InSecurityWatch: War, malware, hacks, China


And a whole lot more.

First up, hyperbolic ramp-up; from the London Telegraph:

Theresa May: Isil will become nuclear threat if we don’t stop them

  • Home Secretary Theresa May warns Isil could acquire “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could acquire nuclear weapons if they are allowed to consolidate their hold in Iraq and Syria, Theresa May has warned.

Isil could get hold of “chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons” in the “world’s first truly terrorist state,” the Home Secretary said, in a wide-ranging speech to the Conservative party conference.

The Home Secretary dramatically highlighted the threat to Britain from the terrorist group, which is operating “within a few hours flying time of our country”.

From BBC News, British bombs away:

RAF jets strike first IS targets in Iraq

RAF jets have attacked a “heavy weapon position” and an armed pick-up truck in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has said.

In the first attacks since Parliament approved military action on Friday, two “precision strikes” were launched and both were “successful”, the MoD said.

The attacks, by two Tornado jets, were part of an international effort against militant group Islamic State (IS).

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, bloviation north of the border:

Canadian military intervention in Iraq is ‘noble,’ Harper says

Stephen Harper is calling Canadian military intervention in Iraq a “noble” cause as his government prepares for an expected air combat mission in the region, saying this country must respond to a direct threat from the Islamic State extremists.

“These are necessary actions, they are noble actions,” Mr. Harper said during Question Period on Tuesday. “When we think that something is necessary and noble, we don’t sit back and say that only other people should do it. The Canadian way is that you do your part.”

He promised a decision on whether and how to extend the mission in the coming days.

Reuters goes against the grain:

Special Report: Islamic State uses grain to tighten grip in Iraq

The group now controls a large chunk of Iraq’s wheat supplies. The United Nations estimates land under IS control accounts for as much as 40 percent of Iraq’s annual production of wheat, one of the country’s most important food staples alongside barley and rice. The militants seem intent not just on grabbing more land but also on managing resources and governing in their self-proclaimed caliphate.

Wheat is one tool at their disposal. The group has begun using the grain to fill its pockets, to deprive opponents – especially members of the Christian and Yazidi minorities – of vital food supplies, and to win over fellow Sunni Muslims as it tightens its grip on captured territory. In Iraq’s northern breadbasket, much as it did in neighboring Syria, IS has kept state employees and wheat silo operators in place to help run its empire.

Such tactics are one reason IS poses a more complex threat than al Qaeda, the Islamist group from which it grew. For most of its existence, al Qaeda has focused on hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings. But Islamic State sees itself as both army and government.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, a drone’s-eye view:

Once targeted, Global Hawk drone now hidden weapon in U.S. airstrikes

The squabbling between the Pentagon and Capitol Hill over whether to kill the biggest of the military’s drones – the Global Hawk – is finished for the moment, with the remotely piloted surveillance aircraft and its builder emerging as the victors.

Now there’s every indication that the rise of the Islamic State has offered the pilotless wonder a chance to show its stuff.

If only its intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance activities, conducted from as high as 11 miles off the ground and on flights of up to 32 hours, weren’t classified. Pentagon officials are tight-lipped about the drone’s role in recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

And next door, via the Guardian:

New Afghanistan pact means America’s longest war will last until at least 2024

  • Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor

The longest war in American history will last at least another decade, according to the terms of a garrisoning deal for US forces signed by the new Afghanistan government on Tuesday.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

CBC News covers spooky rhetoric:

Homegrown terrorism remains biggest threat, Jeh Johnson says

  • U.S. Homeland Security secretary arrived Monday for 2-day visit, keynote speech

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says homegrown terrorism by previously unknown individuals is the threat that worries him the most.

Johnson, in remarks to a business audience in Ottawa today, pointed to last year’s Boston Marathon bombings as an example of terrorist threats that are difficult to predict.

In his midday speech to the Canadian American Business Council, he also spoke about measures by the U.S. government to improve the flow of good across the border while maintaining security.

Canada counts security state costs, via the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Security could drive Pan Am costs higher, minister warns

The rising cost of next year’s Pan American Games may balloon even more because of security costs, the Ontario cabinet minister in charge of the file said Tuesday.

“How can I guarantee the cost of the Games when I don’t know what the threat level is going to be?” Culture Minister Michael Coteau told a legislative committee. “I will not put a price tag on the safety of Ontarians.”

The current total for the event is $2.57-billion, of which $239-million is set aside for security. The cost of security has already grown twice from its initial estimate of $113-million. The Games will be held next summer in Toronto, Hamilton and several surrounding suburbs.

Old Blighty takes an Orwellian turn, via the Associated Press:

UK government plans curbs on nonviolent extremism

Britain’s interior minister has proposed new powers to bar people with extremist views from appearing on television or publishing on social media even if they are not breaking any laws.

Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference of the governing Conservatives that if re-elected next year the party will introduce powers to disrupt people who “spread poisonous hatred” even within the law.

May said Tuesday that only a minority of extremists are violent, but there is “a thread that binds” nonviolent extremism to terrorism.

May says tougher powers are needed to stop young people becoming radicalized. She says at least 500 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq, mainly to fight with militant groups.

The Associated Press embarrasses:

Germany unable to meet NATO readiness target

Germany’s military is unable to meet its medium-term readiness target should NATO call on its members to mobilize against an attack, officials said Monday.

The revelation follows days of embarrassing reports about equipment failures that included German army instructors being stranded in Bulgaria en route to Iraq when their plane broke down, and delays in sending weapons to arm Kurdish fighters because of another transport problem.

In the latest incident, the military said one of two aging C-160 aircraft flying German aid to Ebola-affected West Africa has also been grounded on the island of Gran Canaria since the weekend, awaiting repairs.

Asked about a Der Spiegel report that Germany at this juncture wouldn’t be able to offer the appropriate number of military aircraft within 180 days of an attack on the NATO alliance, Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff confirmed that was the case.

New Europe drones on:

France, Germany to offer drones to monitor ceasefire in Ukraine

France and Germany offered to deploy drones as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s efforts to monitor Ukraine’s ceasefire, a government official said on Monday.

At a daily news briefing, Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Romain Nadal announced “France and Germany have proposed to provide drones aimed at monitoring the ceasefire’s implementation as requested by the OSCE.”

The drone deployment proposal was being discussed, he added without elaborating.

“The cease-fire is an important opportunity to find a lasting political solution to the conflict and which respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Nadal noted.

A cumulus, not the fog of war, via Aviation Week & Space Technology:

Pentagon’s ‘Combat Cloud’ Concept Taking Shape

  • Pentagon envisions “combat cloud” as force multiplier for shrinking fleet

The Pentagon has been bitten by the Steve Jobs bug.

The latest vision for data-sharing across ships, aircraft and satellites—a perpetually chased but unrealized plan—is now being dubbed the “combat cloud.” And a retired U.S. Air Force officer is leading a first-of-a-kind charge to bring stakeholders from each of the services, industry and academia together to shape the cloud and attain buy-in, despite the Pentagon’s spotty track record of gaining traction on similar efforts.

Today the Air Force’s very expensive, stealthy aircraft cannot talk to its -legacy systems, and without that crosstalk the effectiveness of those investments will be marginalized. While officers are scrambling to solve the so-called “fifth-to-fourth” problem, a larger dialogue has blossomed about the objective beyond simply connecting F-22s, B-2s and F-35s to the fleet. But will this dialogue produce an executable program to buy the technology that can make the vision—eventually, the cloud—real?

The goal, likely to take a decade or more to realize, is to form an overarching network of data, each platform a node contributing information to the cloud and downloading from it, even in the heat of battle. It would include fighters, intelligence aircraft, satellites, ships and helicopters.

German victim-blaming from the Guardian:

EU’s new digital commissioner calls celebrities in nude picture leak ‘stupid’

  • Germany’s Günther Oettinger says stars who put naked photos of themselves online could not count on his protection

Former EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, 61, is used to accusations that he is more digitally naïve than digitally native by now. But at a hearing in front of the European parliament, the EU’s next commissioner designate for digital economy and society raised some serious questions about his suitability.

During a three-hour grilling by MEPs in Brussels, Oettinger said it would not be his job to protect stars “stupid enough to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online” – seemingly unaware that the recent leak of celebrities’ nude photographs had come about as a result of a targeted hacking attack.

Oettinger said: “We can mitigate or even eliminate some risks. But like with any technology, you can’t exclude all risks.

Maledictions enabled, via Ars Technica:

Advertising firms struggle to kill malvertisements

  • One provider finds a vulnerable advertising tool that allowed attackers access

In late September, advertisements appearing on a host of popular news and entertainment sites began serving up malicious code, infecting some visitors’ computers with a backdoor program designed to gather information on their systems and install additional malicious code.

The attack affected visitors to The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Hindustan Times, Internet music service Last.fm, and India-focused movie portal Bollywood Hungama, among other popular sites. At the center of the malware campaign: the compromise of San Francisco-based Internet advertising network Zedo, an advertising provider for the sites, whose network was then used to distribute malicious ads.

For ten days, the company investigated multiple malware reports, retracing the attacker’s digital footsteps to identify the malicious files and shut the backdoor to its systems.

A major hack counterattack from the Guardian:

Four hackers charged with stealing $100m in US army and Xbox technology

  • Indictment unsealed on Tuesday reveals Department of Justice charged four people in international computer hacking ring

Four men have been charged with breaking into the computer systems of Microsoft, the US army and leading games manufacturers on Tuesday, as part of an alleged international hacking ring that netted more than $100m in intellectual property, the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The four are alleged to have stolen Xbox technology, Apache helicopter training software and pre-release copies of games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, according to an unsealed indictment. Two of the hackers pleaded guilty earlier on Tuesday, the DoJ said.

After the jump, protesting the educational memory hole, a cartel photobomb in Mexico and a protest for the disappeared, More Pakistani religious murders, forging Indo/American military alliance, FBI-initiated anti-terror raids Down Under, a large collection of items for the ongoing Occupy protests in Hong Kong [international reactions, censorship and other Beijing reactions, specultation, and more], an unofficial peace feeler from Tokyo to Beijing, China’s search for an Indian Ocean base, a major Chinese stealthy air expansion, a hate speech rebuke in Tokyo, and sniffing for bombs in sewers. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Debt, death, hacks, disorder


Lot of ground to cover, with major disruptions in Hong Kong after the jump, plus much more.

We begin with the greatest bomb threast to global civilization, the debt bomb, via the Guardian:

Record world debt could trigger new financial crisis, Geneva report warns

  • Concerted effort required to tackle economic woes as slow growth and low inflation cause global debts to balloon

Global debts have reached a record high despite efforts by governments to reduce public and private borrowing, according to a report that warns the “poisonous combination” of spiralling debts and low growth could trigger another crisis.

Modest falls in household debt in the UK and the rest of Europe have been offset by a credit binge in Asia that has pushed global private and public debt to a new high in the past year, according to the 16th annual Geneva report.

The total burden of world debt, excluding the financial sector, has risen from 180% of global output in 2008 to 212% last year, according to the report.

From the New York Times, spy anxiety:

Spy Agencies Urge Caution on Phone Deal

An obscure federal contract for a company charged with routing millions of phone calls and text messages in the United States has prompted an unusual lobbying battle in which intelligence officials are arguing that the nation’s surveillance secrets could be at risk.

The contractor that wins the bid would essentially act as the air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system, which is run by private companies but is essentially overseen by the government.

And with a European-based company now favored for the job, some current and former intelligence officials — who normally stay out of the business of awarding federal contracts — say they are concerned that the government’s ability to trace reams of phone data used in terrorism and law enforcement investigations could be hindered.

On to the other bomb-athon, with The Hill leading the way:

Rogers: Intel officials warned Obama about ISIS ‘for over a year’

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the intelligence community had warned President Obama about the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for “over a year.”

“This was not an Intelligence Community failure, but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat,” Rogers said in a statement Monday.

His statement comes after the president said that intelligence officers had underestimated ISIS in an interview that aired on “60 Minutes” Sunday.

RT covers an unfolding scenario:

ISIS+Al-Nusra Front? Islamists reportedly join forces, new threat against West issued

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front has issued a new threatening audio message featuring its leader warning the West “will pay the heaviest price” for its actions. The Syrian group is reportedly now joining up with the estranged Islamic State militants.

The leader of Syria’s most prominent terrorist group, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, in denouncing the US-led air strike campaign, has urged Westerners everywhere to do the same “by standing against the decisions of your rulers,” otherwise bloodshed would be brought to their soil.

“Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price,” Reuters cited him as saying. He threatened viewers that the fight would be brought “to the hearts of your homes.”

Der Spiegel covers reconsideration:

The Caliphate Next Door: Turkey Faces Up to its Islamic State Problem

  • For years, Ankara has been tolerating the rise of the extremist Islamic State. But now that the jihadists are conquering regions just across the border in northern Syria, concern is growing that Islamist terror could threaten Turkey too.

The country has been strangely reserved when it comes to dealing with the Islamic State. It is the neighboring country that is perhaps most threatened by the jihadist fighters, but it has refrained thus far from joining US President Barack Obama’s anti-terror coalition, even if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly hinted over the weekend that it might do so soon. When it comes to combatting the Islamic State and putting an end to the Syrian civil war, Turkey has a key role to play.

The government in Ankara had justified its hesitancy by pointing to the dozens of Turkish diplomats taken hostage by the Islamic State in Mosul. Now that they have been released, however, all eyes are on Turkey to see what responsibilities it might take on. On the way back to Turkey from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan told reporters that his country is now prepared to join the coalition. At the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday he added, in reference to the fight against the Islamic State: “We cannot stay out of this.”

From the US perspective, Turkey has often been a difficult partner. Still, after the civil war in Syria began, the two countries expanded cooperation, with American intelligence agencies operating centers in southern Turkey and delivering information about intercepted extremist communications to their Turkish counterparts in near real time.

News Corp Australia covers collateral damage:

Office fitout company ISIS Group Australia considers name change after staff abused as ‘terrorists’

A NATIONAL construction company could be forced to change its name of 25 years because staff members are being abused as “terrorists”.

ISIS Group Australia — an Australian company that has specialised in commercial office fit-outs and refurbishments since 1989 — has been forced to scale back signage on worksites and asked workers to not wear uniforms branded with the company name.

It comes as a Sydney family has been urged to change the name of their eight-year-old girl, whose name is Isis.

In recent weeks, site workers have been abused as “terrorists” by passers-by and angry messages have been left on the company’s office line.

Salon poses allegations:

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. manufactured militant threat as pretext to bomb Syria

  • In an extensive new report, The Intercept questions whether the much-hyped Khorasan Group actually exists

Until the Obama administration announced last week that it was launching air strikes in Syria to target the Islamic State (ISIS) and an al-Qaida affiliate called the Khorasan Group, most Americans had never heard of the latter organization.

That’s because the U.S. government invented the threat, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain charge. In an extensive new report, the journalists document a carefully orchestrated campaign by U.S. officials to depict an imminent threat of terror attacks by Khorasan against U.S. targets. Media outlets suddenly zeroed in on Khorasan, hyping the alleged threat the group could pose, Greenwald and Hussain write.

Claims that Khorasan planned to launch attacks on the U.S. came from anonymous officials who provided thin evidence that any such plans were at risk of being carried out. But, Greenwald and Hussain contend, “American media outlets – eager, as always, to justify Americans wars – spewed all of this with very little skepticism.”

Greenwald’s report is here.

Well-grounded boots from the Los Angeles Times:

U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after historic transfer of power

Afghanistan’s new government plans to sign a strategic agreement Tuesday with the United States that would allow for approximately 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country after the U.S.-led NATO coalition’s mandate expires in December.

U.S. officials say the extended troop presence is needed to continue training Afghanistan’s 350,000 soldiers and police, and to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

The pact – which outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign in his final months in office, fueling tensions with Washington – is expected to be signed by U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and a senior member of the Afghan government.

International Business Times casts a pall:

US Troops In Afghanistan Could Lose Combat Role, Face Bigger Risk From Taliban Attacks

Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as the new president of Afghanistan Monday, clearing the path for a bilateral security agreement that will allow nearly 10,000 U.S. military personnel to stay in the country beyond the end of 2014. The agreement will see U.S. military personnel deployed as  advisers to train and equip Afghan security forces, with U.S. special-operations personnel for anti-terrorism missions against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

While the new role puts an end to regular combat missions for the U.S. military, the reduced number of overall personnel may leave the force more exposed.

“In terms of the protection issues, this was a concern of the vice president who wanted the zero personnel option, but Obama disagreed,” said Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Vice President Biden’s “main concern was that as U.S. forces decrease, they will become more susceptible to being attacked.”

From the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, with the documents at the link:

New Documents Shed Light on One of the NSA’s Most Powerful Tools

Today, we’re releasing several key documents about Executive Order 12333 that we obtained from the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the ACLU filed (along with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School) just before the first revelations of Edward Snowden. The documents are from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and others agencies. They confirm that the order, although not the focus of the public debate, actually governs most of the NSA’s spying.

In some ways, this is not surprising. After all, it has been reported that some of the NSA’s biggest spying programs rely on the executive order, such as the NSA’s interception of internet traffic between Google’s and Yahoo!’s data centers abroad, the collection of millions of email and instant-message address books, the recording of the contents of every phone call made in at least two countries, and the mass cellphone location-tracking program. In other ways, however, it is surprising. Congress’s reform efforts have not addressed the executive order, and the bulk of the government’s disclosures in response to the Snowden revelations have conspicuously ignored the NSA’s extensive mandate under EO 12333.

The order, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, imposes the sole constraints on U.S. surveillance on foreign soil that targets foreigners. There’s been some speculation, too, that the government relies directly on the order — as opposed to its statutory authority — to conduct surveillance inside the United States.

More from The Intercept:

The Ghost of Ronald Reagan Authorizes Most NSA Spying

U.S. intelligence agents have broad authority to spy on U.S. companies as long as they are “believed to have some relationship with foreign organizations or persons” — a description that could conceivably apply to any company with foreign shareholders, subsidiaries, or even employees—according to newly released government documents published this morning by the ACLU.

The trove, which includes documents from the NSA, Department of Justice, and Defense Intelligence Agency, confirms long-standing suspicions that the bulk of U.S. foreign surveillance operations are governed not by acts of Congress, but by a 33-year-old executive order issued unilaterally by President Ronald Reagan.

The documents were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, and they detail the extent of the order — which is extraordinarily broad and until recently largely obscure — and which underpins expansive U.S. surveillance programs, like siphoning internet traffic from Google and Yahoo’s overseas data centers, recording every call in the Bahamas, and gathering billions of records on cellphone locations around the world.

Recruitment advancement from the Associated Press:

Israel’s shadowy Mossad looks to recruit online

It used to be that if you wanted to join one of the world’s most secretive espionage organizations you had to sneak into a foreign embassy, answer a cryptic newspaper ad or show up in a nondescript building in Tel Aviv to meet a shadowy recruiter. Now all it takes to apply for a job at Israel’s Mossad spy agency is a click of the mouse.

The typically hush-hush Mossad revamped its website last week to include a snazzy recruiting video and an online application option for those seeking employment. With versions in Hebrew, English, French, Russian, Arabic and Persian, the sleek site looks to revolutionize the way Israel’s legendary agency seeks out potential agents after generations of backdoor, cloak-and-dagger antics.

“We must continue to recruit the best people into our ranks so that the Mossad might continue to lead, defend and allow for the continued existence of the state of Israel,” Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo said in a statement announcing the launch. “The Mossad’s qualitative human capital is the secret of our success.”

From the Guardian, the latest from The Most Transparent Administration in American History™:

US bid for secret Guantánamo force-feeding hearings prompts cover-up fears

  • The Guardian is among several news organisations planning to file a motion to challenge the administration’s secrecy reques

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to hold a highly anticipated court hearing on its painful force-feedings of Guantánamo Bay detainees almost entirely in secret, prompting suspicions of a cover-up.

Justice Department attorneys argued to district judge Gladys Kessler that allowing the hearings to be open to the public would jeopardize national security through the disclosure of classified information. Should Kessler agree, the first major legal battle over forced feeding in a federal court would be less transparent than the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay.

Attorneys for Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee on hunger strike whose court challenge is slated to begin next week, said the government was using national security as an excuse to prevent the public from learning the extent of a practice that the judge in the case has considered brutal.

A spooky brew-ha-ha from the London Daily Mail:

Inside the CIA’s Starbucks: Coffee shop known as Store Number 1 bans names on cups and runs background checks on baristas

  • Cafe is deep inside the agency’s Langley, Virginia, forest compound
  • Is referred to as ‘Store Number 1′ on customers’ receipts
  • However agents working in the building call it the ‘Stealthy Starbucks’
  • Baristas are given security briefings on a regular basis
  • Staff are also escorted by agency ‘minders’ when they leave work
  • Double espressos and sugary Frappuccinos are said to be popular orders

From PCWorld, a cell for cell phone hacking?

CEO indicted for company’s alleged mobile spyware app

The CEO of a Pakistani company has been indicted in the U.S. for selling a product called StealthGenie that buyers could use to monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on other people’s mobile phones, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The indictment of Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, represents the first time the DOJ has brought a criminal case related to the marketing and sale of an alleged mobile spyware app, the DOJ said in a press release Monday.

Akbar is CEO of InvoCode, the company selling StealthGenie online. Akbar is among the creators of StealthGenie, which could intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices, the DOJ said.

On to the world of online insecurity, starting with this from Network World:

Malvertising campaign delivers digitally signed CryptoWall ransomware

The cybercriminals behind the CryptoWall ransomware threat have stepped up their game and are digitally signing new samples before using them in attacks in an attempt to bypass antivirus detection.

Researchers from network security firm Barracuda Networks found new CryptoWall samples that were digitally signed with a legitimate certificate obtained from DigiCert. The samples were distributed through drive-by download attacks launched from popular websites via malicious advertisements.

Several websites in the Alexa top 15,000 list were affected by this latest malvertising—malicious advertising—campaign including hindustantimes.com, the site of Indian daily newspaper Hindustan Times; Israeli sports news site one.co.il; and Web development community codingforums.com.

“In every case, malicious content arrived via the site’s use of the Zedo ad network,” the Barracuda researchers said in a blog post Sunday.

Serious insecurity from SecurityWeek:

What We Know About Shellshock So Far, and Why the Bash Bug Matters

Security researchers around the world have been working around the clock analyzing the recently disclosed flaw in Bash which can be exploited to execute code and hijack vulnerable devices. Attackers are already targeting the bug, which has been nicknamed Shellshock, and security experts warned organizations to prepare for more attacks and messy cleanup.

The investigation is still in the early stages and there are a many unanswered questions about how Shellshock can be abused. Opinions also vary wildly among experts as to its potential impact. What is known—and agreed upon—at this point, is that Shellshock is a very serious vulnerability because it allows remote code execution and gives the attacker full access to the system. Being able to get shell and execute any kind of program on the target system is a major coup for attackers

Bash “is widely used so attackers can use this vulnerability to remotely execute a huge variety of devices and web servers,” said Tod Beardsley, engineering manager at Rapid7.

The most obvious initial targets will be large hosting providers, “which are riddled with bash-enabled administrative functions, as well as innumerable PHP-based forums, blogs, stores,” suggested Daniel Ingevaldson, CTO of Easy Solutions.

From Network World, corporate surveillance anxieties:

Facebook’s new ad sales plan raises hackles in Germany

As Facebook began rolling out a global advertising network on Monday that will capitalize on all it knows from tracking users across the web, German consumer organizations immediately raised their voices in protest.

Called Atlas, the new ad network is supposed to allow advertisers to use Facebook’s detailed knowledge about its users to reach their desired customers across devices and target ads at them across apps and websites.

From The Verge, foiling 4Chan?:

George Clooney gave his wedding guests burner phones to prevent photo leaks

It’s a tricky security problem: how do you let your wedding guests take photos, but make sure none of the photos leak? If you’re George Clooney, you collect everyone’s phone and give each of them a burner phone just for the occasion, to be tossed away once the big day is over. It’s an expensive way around the problem, sure, but if you’re a movie star, it’s a small price to pay.

The bigger question, tossed around in security circles, is how all this actually worked. Supposedly, Clooney’s people had access to all of the photos taken with the burner phones, so they would know who took which photos and would be able to trace back any leaks that came out. Vogue had bought exclusive photography rights to the wedding (donating the fee to charity), so Clooney had reason to be protective of the photos. But as some in the security world have noted, it may not have been an airtight system.

Of course, from a security perspective, the race is hard to win anyway. If someone was really dead-set on leaking that million-dollar wedding photo to TMZ, they could have just smuggled in a camera of their own. If the burner phones worked — and Clooney’s photo embargo has held, so far — it may be more due to well-behaved guests than airtight infosec.

After the jump, Indian police bust self-snappers, Jerry Brown vetoes a bill to curb cop drone ops, 58 Mexican students “disappeared” and a politician gunned down in public, privatized security abuse in Germany, China censors online posts about the turmoil in Hong Kong and condemns the protests, Beijing warns would-be interveners, media savvy and Global solidarity rallies called, Beijing’s deepest fear, a significant move in the Game of Zones, a Chinese missile advance and a demonstration of force, and an ill-matched pair divorces. . . Continue reading

InsecurityWatch: War, spooks, hacks, drones


We begin with beating war drums from  the Guardian:

Top Republican calls for US ground war amid fresh strikes on Isis

  • New US-led wave of bombing raids target Islamic State oil supplies as John Boehner ramps up military rhetoric

The Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, on Sunday ramped up the political rhetoric over Syria and Iraq by saying American forces will need to be put on the ground in the battle against the Islamic State (Isis).

Boehner’s comment that at some point “boots have to be on the ground” marks a significant inflation in the terms of the debate over how to deal with Isis. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said US ground forces will not be used in the conflict, which on Sunday saw US-led strikes in Syria and the first British strikes in Iraq, though the Pentagon has ordered the dispatch of 1,600 US troops to Iraq for what it insists will be training and other support functions.

Speaking to ABC News, Boehner criticised Obama’s plan to degrade and ultimately destroy Isis. “If the goal is to destroy Isil as the president says it is,” he said, “I don’t believe the strategy he outlines will accomplish it. At the end of the day I think it’s going to take more than airstrikes to drive them out – at some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground, that’s the point.”

McClatchy Washington Bureau steps up the tempo:

U.S. combat role in Iraq not off table, Gen. Dempsey says

The nation’s top military commander refused Friday to back off his controversial stance in Senate testimony that he would recommend committing U.S. troops to combat in Iraq if he believed they were needed to help defeat Islamic State militants.

The steadfastness of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed a potential gap between President Barack Obama’s senior military and political advisers over whether there might once more be American “boots on the ground” in Iraq three years after the last American combat troops left.

In another sign of the expanding American mission in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the first U.S. military personnel had arrived in Saudi Arabia to lay the groundwork for training 5,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

Misunderstimation from the Washington Post:

Obama: United States underestimated rise of Islamic State

The United States has underestimated the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama said during an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” in which he also acknowledged the Iraqi army’s inability to successfully tackle the threat.

According to excerpts, “60 Minutes” presenter Steve Kroft referred to comments by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, in which he said, “We overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi Army, to fight.”

“That’s true. That’s absolutely true,” Obama said. “Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

USA Today itemizes the bill:

ISIL fight already near $1 billion as strategy shifts

The air war in Syria and Iraq has already cost nearly $1 billion and ultimately could cost as much as $22 billion per year if a large ground force is deployed to the region, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The study, due to be released Monday, shows a range of costs based on sustained but low-intensity combat up to a force of 25,000 U.S. troops on the ground.

President Obama and the Pentagon have ruled out the the use of American boots on the ground, making the most expensive option the least likely. Yet as Todd Harrison, the lead author points out, war is “an unpredictable enterprise” and the ability to forecast its costs is limited.

And the Guardian covers the media war:

Isis’s online propaganda outpacing US counter-efforts, ex-officials warn

  • Batch of US initiatives seeking to undermine Isis’s sophisticated online image is unlikely to work on internet-affluent youths

Former US public diplomacy officials fear the sophisticated, social media borne propaganda of the Islamic State militant group (Isis) is outmatching American efforts at countering it.

Aimed less at Isis itself than at potential supporters, a bevy of US diplomatic and communications initiatives seek to undermine Isis’s portrayal of itself as an authentic, successful Islamic resistance. But even some who helped push the State Department into confronting extremists online fear that US counter-propaganda is amorphous, slipshod and unlikely to persuade internet-fluent youths to whom Isis attempts to appeal.

“I honestly don’t think the government should be in the position of directly engaging jihadis on Twitter. It’s a silly game,” said Shahed Amanullah, who last year left the State Department after helping establish programs to promote anti-extremist Muslim voices abroad.

The Independent covers spin:

Isis in Syria: Militant group al-Nusra claims US air strikes are a ‘war against Islam’

The Syrian terror group Jabhat al-Nusra has denounced US air strikes against Isis as “a war against Islam” and vowed to take revenge against the coalition of countries supporting military action in the region.

In an online statement on Saturday, al-Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri called on jihadists around the world to strike against the global alliance opposing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

He said: “These states have committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world”

Deutsche Welle covers a possible casualty:

Khorasan leader believed dead after airstrikes

US-led airstrikes are believed to have killed a leader of an al Qaeda splinter group. The Khorasan group was believed to have been plotting imminent attacks against the West, according to defense officials.

The leader of the al Qaeda splinter group Khorasan, which US officials say was plotting imminent attacks against the West, is believed to have been killed, the SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) monitoring service announced on Sunday.

A twitter account managed by an al Qaeda member said that the Kuwait-born Muhsin al-Fadhli, a high-level al Qaeda operative and former close associate of Osama bin Laden, had been killed in coalition airstrikes conducted on September 23 in Syia.

SITE said a series of tweets expressed condolences for the deaths of Fadhli and Abu Youssef al-Turki, another Khorasan leader. The monitoring group said the tweets also bemoaned conditions in Syria, where the US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against “Islamic State” militants.

Defense One looks at munitions:

How American Precision Weapons Opened the Door to an Arab Coalition

President Obama’s insistence that Arab states join in on U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq serves a political purpose for Washington and the region. But that Arab states were able to play a key role in the strikes at all is owed to years of purchases of made-in-America, high-tech, precision-guided bombs.

The U.S. military has gone to great lengths to detail the precision of the air strikes conducted against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

But outside the Middle East, NATO leaders long have expressed concern that the alliance lacked sufficient stockpiles of these types of guided weapons and could limit a countries’ participation in long-term air strike campaign. “We do not have enough precision-strike munitions to carry on a concentrated campaign, at length, helping all of our allies to be there with us,” said Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO supreme allied commander Europe and head of US European Command, last week. “We need to think through where we are on precision munitions.”

Bloomberg mulls blowback:

Asians Chase Apocalypse in Syria, to Tick Like Time Bombs Back Home

As nations around the world grapple with the threat of Islamic State, the Southeast Asians fighting in the Middle East pose a risk in several ways, security analysts say. They could return and breathe new life into militant groups in a region with a history of extremism and occasional large-scale terror attacks, and they could radicalize friends and family at home via social media, aided by slick Islamic State promotional videos.

“It is not IS per se that might pose a danger to the region but rather its extreme militant ideology as well as the skills, battleground experience and international networks that Southeast Asian jihadists got from Syria and Iraq,” said Navhat Nuraniyah, an associate research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who looks at terrorism and radicalization.

“If even a small minority of them do return, they will be highly respected by existing local groups,” she said. “If they do intend to continue their mission they will have no problem finding recruits and support.”

Yet another drone strike from the Guardian:

US drone strike kills four suspected militants in Pakistan

  • Two Arab militants and two local allies killed in tribal region along border with Afghanistan, officials say

A US drone strike killed four suspected militants on Sunday in a north-western tribal region in Pakistan along the Afghan border, intelligence officials and Taliban fighters said.

Those killed included two Arab militants and two of their local allies in a compound in the town of Wana in South Waziristan, the two officials and three Taliban fighters said.

All of them spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to journalists. Authorities don’t allow journalists into Pakistan’s tribal areas, which have long been a safe haven for local and al-Qaida linked foreign militants.

German journalist Udo Ulfkotte has some startling allegations, via RT:

‘Bought Journalism’: German bestseller reveals CIA pay Western media for spin & bias

Program note:

The media is a key tool in the battle for hearts and minds. But a new bestseller by a German author reveals some details on journalism that would be considered too outlandish, even in a spy novel. RT’s Peter Oliver reports.

South China Morning Post covers old school spooking:

Arms-smuggling Taiwanese duo snared in FBI sting plead guilty

  • Pair claimed to be acting on behalf of Beijing official when they tried to send hi-tech military gear to mainland; HK ‘mastermind’ awaits trial

Two Taiwanese accomplices of an alleged Hong Kong smuggling mastermind face decades in US prisons after being caught trying to export high-grade military technology to mainland China.

The pair claimed to be acting on behalf of a senior Beijing official when they were snared in an FBI sting, FBI reports and legal documents seen by the Sunday Morning Post show.

Charlie Shen Hui-sheng, 47, and Alice Chang Huan-ling, 43, pleaded guilty in a New Jersey court on Monday to both the arms charge and their involvement in a drug-smuggling operation led by Hongkonger Kow Soon-ah. Kow was extradited to the United States from the Philippines in 2012 and faces 14 drug and contraband charges that could see him jailed for life.

From the Canadian Press, reasonable grounds for suspicion:

Spy watchdog’s past oil ties spark concerns in civil liberties complaint case

A civil liberties group is objecting to Canada’s spy watchdog assigning Yves Fortier to investigate alleged spying on environmental activists, citing a conflict due to his former petroleum industry ties.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s lawyer has written to the Security Intelligence Review Committee asking that Fortier “recuse himself from any participation” in the matter since he once sat on the board of TransCanada Pipelines — the company behind the Keystone XL project.

Fortier, one of three review committee members, was recently appointed to lead an investigation into the association’s complaint that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service gathered and shared information about activists opposed to Canada’s energy policies.

After the jump, Internet founder sounds the alarm, a Snowden-inspired push, a Down Under online sting nets a biggie, a rare win for U.S. reporters, Hong Kong turmoil continues [with injuries], Beijing’s opposition, Beijing sends a verbal blast at Tokyo, North Korea sends at verbal blast at Washington, and the vanishing Kim. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, borders, hacks, threats


Today’s tour of the realms where paranoia and politics intersect begins with this from Xinhua:

Iran to counter IS militants in Iraq if threatened: commander

Iran will target Islamic State militants “deep inside the Iraqi territory” if they intend to approach the Iranian borders, a senior Iranian commander was quoted as saying by Press TV on Saturday.

“We will not allow the IS terrorist group to approach the country’s borders. We are fully prepared to counter them,” Commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Pourdastan, said on Saturday. “If the IS terrorist group intends to come near the country’s borders, we will target them deep inside the Iraqi territory.”

The commander added that Iran has deployed ground forces in western border regions to beef up the security there, and that those forces have high operational capability and would “nip the threats in the bud.”

The New York Times covers another border:

Turkey Hesitant to Ally With U.S. in Syria Mission

No American ally is closer to the threat of the Islamic State than Turkey, and no country could play a more important role in a coalition that President Obama is assembling to combat the extremist Sunni militants. Yet Turkey has been reluctant to enlist, in part because of the desperate conflict playing out on its border with Syria.

On Saturday, outgunned Kurdish fighters, just a few hundred yards inside Syria and clearly visible from hilltop olive groves in this frontier village, battled Islamic State militants advancing from a village less than a mile away. They fought with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns within sight of Kobani, the central town in a besieged Kurdish area of Syria that has been falling village by village to a weeklong onslaught by the Islamic State.

Turkish soldiers in armored vehicles stood by at the border fence, taking no action except to block Turkish and Syrian Kurds from crossing into Syria to defend Kobani, where Kurds fear a massacre. That has fed the fury of Kurds on both sides of the border, who accuse Turkey, with its long history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, of tacitly supporting the Islamic State against them.

From the London Daily Mail, intrafamilial culture clash:

Arab woman pilot who is poster girl for Gulf states’ blitz on ISIS is ‘disowned by her family’ for bombing ‘Sunni heroes of Iraq and the Levant’

  • Mariam Al Mansouri’s F-16 bombing raids were celebrated in the West
  • But a statement purporting to be from her UAE family has ‘disowned’ her
  • It attacks her for ‘taking part in the brutal aggression against Syria’

The female air force pilot whose missions against Isis were dubbed ‘boobs on the ground’ has reportedly been disowned by her family and labelled an ‘ingrate’.

Mariam Al Mansouri’s participation in F-16 bombing raids for the UAE was celebrated in the West, but an anonymous statement claiming to be from her family ‘disowned’ her for ‘taking part in the brutal international aggression’ against Syria.

It also expressed support for the Islamic State, saying ‘we are proud of the Sunni heroes in Iraq and the Levant’. The brutal terrorist group’s original name was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isil.

Bombast from Deutsche Welle:

Al Qaeda splinter group claims responsibility for US embassy attack in Yemen

An extremist group linked to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the US embassy in Yemen. The incident comes after Washington urged US citizens to leave the Gulf country.

The rocket landed around 200 meters from the heavily fortified embassy in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, hitting several members of the Yemeni police force who were guarding the compound. At least two were injured, authorities said.

Police told news agency Reuters that the rocket came from a M72 light anti-tank weapon fired from a car.

Shortly after the attack, the embassy said it did not believe it was the target of the rocket, and that Yemeni authorities were investigating.

USA Today covers collateral damage:

Another casualty of war in the Arab world: Education

In Kurdistan, the schools are full of refugees. In Gaza, many have been reduced to rubble. In Libya and Yemen, teachers and students can’t get to class because of fighting.

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, Islamic State militants have decreed that the school bell should ring to draw students, but few are going to classes.

As school starts across the Arab world this month, hundreds of thousands of students from across the Middle East and North Africa won’t be going. Conflict, turmoil and even destruction have put these children at great risk.

From the New York Times, a wrist slap:

Police Behavior in Ferguson Draws Attention of Justice Department

The Justice Department on Friday pressured the Ferguson Police Department to stop its officers from wearing bracelets stamped with the message “I am Darren Wilson,” in solidarity with the police officer who is being investigated for shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old, and from covering up their name plates with tape.

The bracelets, dark blue with white lettering, were photographed on the wrists of several Ferguson police officers who were interacting with demonstrators this week as protests flared up once again in this small city in the suburbs of St. Louis. A grand jury is looking into the shooting of the teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, and the police department is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.

In a stern letter to Chief Thomas Jackson, Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that the bracelets “upset and agitated people.”

Questions from the Los Angeles Times:

Growing use of police body cameras raises privacy concerns

For many departments, questions remain about when officers should be allowed to turn off such cameras — especially in cases involving domestic violence or rape victims — and the extent to which video could be made public.

Such video “sometimes captures people at the worst moments of their lives,” American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley said. “You don’t want to see videos of that uploaded to the Internet for titillation and gawking,” he said.

Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.

From the Daily Dot, espiocorporatism:

The NSA is renting its technology to U.S. companies

The National Security Agency (NSA), which develops surveillance tools that are both dazzling and terrifying, has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades.

So if you’re looking to buy a tool to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone’s touched your phone’s SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn’t available on the open market, try the world’s most technologically advanced spy agency.

It’s called the Technology Transfer Program (TTP), under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they’re swayed by an American company’s business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out.

From BBC News, reasonable requests:

Google urged to change privacy rules by data regulators

European data privacy regulators have put renewed pressure on Google to alter its privacy policy. It follows changes to the policy two years ago which regulators felt breached European rules.

Among other things, it says Google must tell users exactly what data is collected and with whom it is shared.

Google said it was working with regulators to “explain its privacy policy changes.” The dispute has been running since March 2012 when Google consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one and started combining data from YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps.

Hacking away, via the Guardian:

Russian malware used by ‘privateer’ hackers against Ukrainian government

  • Attackers were carrying out hits to make money, but were ‘co-opted’ into carrying out state espionage, say security researchers

A hacker tool popular across underground Russian crime networks has been used in attacks on the Ukrainian government, indicating the use of “privateers” for digital espionage, according to researchers.

The malware, known as BlackEnergy, appears to have been used in cyberattacks against Georgia during the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008 too, but has also been operated by criminals as a means to steal credit card data.

This summer, it was tailored to hit a number of Ukrainian targets. Researchers from security firm F-Secure said Ukrainian Railways and infrastructure related to government bodies in Dnipropetrovsk, a city in the southeast of Ukraine, were in the crosshairs of the hackers. The researchers uncovered the hackers’ use of proxy servers – used to reroute internet traffic – linked to those targets’ networks.

And RT covers more iCloud-hacking agony:

Have mercy! Tons more of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrity nudes leaked online

There seems to be no end in sight for celebrities this season, as the “third round” of nude photo leaks adds top model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and more of Jennifer Lawrence to the mix.

The FBI promised earlier in the week to widen its probe into the leaks after new nude images of celebrities Kim Kardashian, Vaness Hudgens and others popped up online. It launched an investigation in the aftermath of the first leak linked to a security flaw in Apple’s iCloud file storage service, but has so far come up empty.

This Friday, however, a newer leak surfaced on the online communities Reddit and 4chan, exposing, among many others, superstar model Cara Delevingne, actress Anna Kendrick and T-Mobile ad star and top model Carly Foulkes. Other celebrities exposed include three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, a host of other soap opera and movie actresses – and topping that are 55 more images of Jennifer Lawrence.

Drones are for we, not thee, say the cops, via Photography is Not a Crime:

L.A. Drone Activist Jailed Four Days After Refusing Deal to Revoke Right to Fly Them

Daniel Saulmon, Southern Californian’s notorious video activist, spent four days in a crowded county jail this week after refusing a plea deal that would have forbade him from flying his quadcopter for two years within Los Angeles County.

“It was terrible,” he said of his experience in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime hours after his release.

“I watched deputies nearly beat a guy to death with batons and tasers. I saw another man go into a seizure and almost die. It was not good.”

After the jump, lashes for gays in Indonesia, turmoil and arrests in Hong Kong, a Taiwanese rebuff of a Beijing gambit, China stakes an oceanic claim and crosses the line, Japanese remilitarism justified, Washington/Tokyo military ties tightening, and a real security threat in New Mexico. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, cops, hacks, more


First up, from the Los Angeles Times, piling on:

Britain, Belgium and Denmark to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq

The British Parliament voted Friday to join U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq against the extremist group Islamic State.

The motion approved by a vote of 524 to 43 does not allow Britain’s air force to also conduct operations in neighboring Syria, where the militants have seized large swaths of territory.

Prime Minister David Cameron made the case for military intervention to lawmakers, who were recalled to London during a recess for Friday’s vote.

More from the London Telegraph:

British air strikes on Iraq in hours after MPs vote for action

  • Bombing is backed by 524 to 43 MPs after David Cameron said the “psychopathic terrorists” must be destroyed

Air Strikes could begin within hours after MPs backed Government plans for a bombing campaign against “psycopathic” Isis terrorists in Iraq.

Six Tornados supported by a Voyager refuelling tanker have been at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in mid-August and could be ready to begin air strikes within hours.

Sources said the Tornados could quickly be fitted with Paveway IV guided bombs or Brimstone missiles to carry out strikes on Isil vehicles and convoys.

Another body for the huddle from  CBC News:

Stephen Harper says Canada won’t ‘stand on the sidelines’ of ISIS fight

  • PM calls Islamic State a ‘direct threat to the security of this country’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will not sit idly while Islamic State militants in the Middle East threaten to slaughter thousands of innocent people.

“We do not stand on the sidelines and watch. We do our part,” Harper said following a meeting with European Union leaders on Parliament Hill Friday.

“That’s always how this country has handled its international responsibilities, and as long as I’m prime minister that’s what we will continue to do.”

TheLocal.no adds another:

Norway commits military staff in fight against Isis

Norway’s government officially ruled to let five Norwegian officers be included in the US-led coalition’s fight against ISIS in Iraq, on Friday.

The five officers of the Norwegian military will be made available “for relevant headquarters planning and leading the international effort against ISIS in Iraq” for no more than twelve months, informed the Department of Defence.
Minister of Defence Ina Eriksen Søreide said to NTB: “It is important to show that the global society stands together in the fight against international terrorism, and that serious violations on human rights will not be tolerated. The government has decided that Norway will contribute with five officers, who will take part in the military planning and be able to contribute to a stronger basis for decision-making for an evaluation of possible further Norwegian military contributions.”

The Norwegian officers will first be sent to Tampa, Florida to begin their tasks as soon as possible.

RT has numbers for another:

Denmark to send F-16 jets to aid anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq

Denmark is to dispatch seven F-16 fighter jets to Iraq to aid in the struggle against Islamic State militants, Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced Friday.

The US filed a request with Denmark on Thursday to contribute to the international air campaign against Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, or ISIL) in Iraq. Thorning-Schmidt said that the F-16s would be limited to flying in Iraq and would not be targeting any areas in neighboring Syria.

“I am very pleased that there now is a broad coalition, including countries in the region who want to… contribute,” she told a press conference. “The terror organization ISIS cannot be defeated with military means alone.”

Reuters has one reaction:

Wary of air strikes, Islamic State insurgents change tactics

Islamic State militants are changing tactics in the face of U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq, ditching conspicuous convoys in favor of motorcycles and planting their black flags on civilian homes, tribal sources and eyewitnesses say.

They reported fewer militant checkpoints to weed out “apostates” and less cell phone use since the air strikes intensified and more U.S. allies pledged to join the campaign that began in August, saying the militants had also split up to limit casualties.

A tribal sheikh from a village south of Kirkuk said Islamic State elements “abandoned one of their biggest headquarters in the village” when they heard the air strike campaign was likely to target their area.

Reuters has another:

U.S.-led strikes pressure al Qaeda’s Syria group to join with Islamic State

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, is facing mounting pressure from its own members to reconcile with its rival Islamic State and confront a common enemy after U.S.-led air strikes hit both groups this week.

But that move would require pledging loyalty to Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, which would effectively put an end to the Nusra Front, fighters in the group say.

Nusra, long one of the most effective forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was weakened this year by battles with Islamic State, an al Qaeda splinter group that routinely employs ruthless methods such as beheadings and mass executions.

And possibly another from the China Post:

IS jihadists execute female rights activist in Iraq’s Mosul

The jihadists who rule Iraq’s northern city of Mosul have executed a female rights activist who criticized the Islamic State (IS) group on social media, several sources said Thursday.

According to rights groups and residents, Samira Saleh al-Nuaimi was executed on Monday. A source at Mosul morgue confirmed to AFP that her body was brought in earlier this week.

“I have also had contact with the morgue and sadly I can confirm that she is dead,” Hana Edward, a prominent Iraqi rights activist who knew Nuaimi, told AFP.

From TheLocal.fr, alerting:

France slaps travel warnings on 40 countries

Following the beheading of a French hostage, authorities have expanded to 40 countries the list of places where French visitors should use “utmost vigilance”. Some on the list may surprise you.

With France carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and one of its nationals beheaded at the hands of jihadists, French authorities have added new countries to a warning list for its citizens.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expanded the list from 31 to 40 countries on Thursday, warning French people to use their “utmost vigilance” if they visit these places.

Discouragement from Homeland Security News Wire:

New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz said on Tuesday. Boston was chosen “for the strength of our existing relationships, community engagement and community oriented policing programs,” Ortiz added.

Reuters has numbers:

Nine Japanese said to have joined Islamic State

Nine Japanese nationals have joined Islamic State, Japan’s former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, quoted a senior Israeli government official as saying, but the government’s top spokesman said on Friday it had not confirmed the information.

Tamogami, now a senior official of a tiny new political party, said on his blog that Nissim Ben Shitrit, the director-general of Israel’s foreign ministry, told him this month that nine Japanese had taken part in Islamic State.

Asked about the possible participation of Japanese citizens in the militant group, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference, “The government has not confirmed such information.”

The Mainichi debunks:

FBI: About 12 Americans fighting in Syria, not 100

The U.S. believes there are about 12 Americans fighting alongside extremist groups in Syria, not more than 100, as has been cited for months.

That’s not to say there is no concern about these other 88 or so Americans who officials say have been killed, arrested, traveled or attempted to travel to join the fight. But the U.S. only knows of about 12 who are currently in Syria fighting, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.

The 100 figure, however, had taken on an urban legend status over the past few months as the Obama administration made its case to the American public for military action in Iraq and Syria. It’s unclear what significance the discrepancy has as far as Americans’ support for the U.S. military action, which so far has been strong.

And from the London Daily Mail, adding fool to the fire:

Hero company CEO, who works part time as a cop, shot Muslim convert employee, 30, as he BEHEADED female co-worker and stabbed another after trying to convince colleagues to join Islam

  • Alton Nolen, 30, had just been fired when he drove up to Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma and ‘attacked the first two people he saw’
  • He beheaded Colleen Hufford, 54, and stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, before Mark Vaughan, an off-duty officer and the company’s former owner, shot him
  • Nolen and Johnson are both being treated in hospital
  • Co-workers revealed that Nolen, who has an extensive rap sheet, had recently converted to Islam and had tried to get them to convert as well
  • He has a Jesus tattoo on his chest and a Muslim greeting inked on his abdomen, court records show
  • In 2010, after he eluded cops and sparked a massive overnight manhunt, he was ordered to take an anger management course
  • 911 call reveals the chaos inside the entrance to the building after the suspect entered and attacked at random before he was gunned down
  • FBI now investigating whether conversion to Islam linked to attack

Süddeutsche Zeitung has a blast from the hitherto secret past

The Aborted Origins Of The First Hunt For Osama Bin Laden

Some of the drones the United States used to hunt for Osama bin Laden were once piloted out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany, apparently without the knowledge of officials in Berlin.

It was known that the data for all drone attacks flowed through Ramstein, but according to both internal documents and U.S. officers, the drone pilots themselves were located there for at least part of the time (pictured: ground control station in New Mexico).

In the summer of 2000, (more than a year before the Sep. 11 attacks) a team from the U.S. Air Force 32nd Expeditionary Air Intelligence Squadron in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate began a remote-controlled drone hunt for Osama bin Laden. At the time, the CIA and the National Security Council were developing various plans to capture or kill bin Laden. The idea of armed drones was discussed, although at the time this was thoroughly new ground and the military was skeptical of their use.

TheLocal.dk covers a military hack attack:

Danish defence secrets obtained by foreign spies

Denmark’s largest weapons company and up to four other defence targets were successfully hacked over a period of four years, and signs point to China.

The Danish defence industry was the target of successful hacks by a foreign state, mostly likely China, DR reports. The news comes just days after DR revealed that sensitive Danish business information was obtained by state-sponsored hackers in 2012.

The defence hack was targeted at the Danish contributions to the American F35 Joint Strike Fighter jet programme.

Deutsche Welle ponders a visit:

Could Snowden come to Berlin?

  • German opposition members appealed to the country’s highest court to allow former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden to testify at a parliamentary inquiry in Berlin

A German parliamentary inquiry looking into US National Security Agency (NSA) spying in Germany initially decided it would not invite whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked the documents revelaing the US intelligence agency’s massive spy programs, to testify in Berlin.

The Green and Left opposition parties on Friday requested that the German Constitutional Court, the country’s highest legal institution, to rule on whether Snowden should testify in front of the inquiry committee in Berlin to provide a “global overview of the technical conditions of mass surveillance,” according to Greens lawmaker Konstantin von Notz.

Although the German government appears not to want to risk harming its relationship with the US by allowing Snowden to speak in Berlin, inquiry committee members from Germany’s governing parties have said they also want to hear from Snowden. They, however, want to do it via video link or in Russia, where Snowden currently lives in exile, rather than in the German capital.

From the Birmingham News, a very, very curious story:

Huntsville schools say call from NSA led to monitoring students online

A secret program to monitor students’ online activities began quietly in Huntsville schools, following a phone call from the NSA, school officials say.

Huntsville schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski says the system began monitoring social media sites 18 months ago, after the National Security Agency tipped the school district to a student making violent threats on Facebook.

The NSA, a U.S. agency responsible for foreign intelligence, this week said it has no record of a call to Huntsville and does not make calls to school systems.

Regardless of how the program started, Huntsville City Schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence.

After the jump, apology rejected in Ferguson, military arrests in Mexico, Argentine tax cheats pursued by drones, Shellshock implacability, a horrendous online vulnerability revealed, Down Under spook spoofing Pakistan expands its nuclear horizons, censoring soaps in Thailand, An Internet purge in China, Hong Kong protests end in clash and Hillary’s chickens come home to roost, illustrative imprisonment in China, a Sino/Indian border spat,  Nazi-ness in Japan, and an attack of liberal newspaper. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Bombs, hysteria, hacks, pols


Today’s collection of headlines from the realm of threats and secrets, bombs and bugs, begins with a bit of déjà vu all over again from the Guardian:

US aims to wipe out Isis funding with air strikes on oil wells in Syria

  • Groups control an oil field for a few weeks until another leader seizes it while the engineers who serviced the wells have fled

The latest US air strikes in Syria targeted oil facilities controlled by Islamic State (Isis) in a deliberate attempt to wipe out a lucrative source of income for the rapidly expanding jihadist group.

US central command said 13 air strikes were launched against refineries in the east of the country. They included at least four oil installations and three oil fields around the town of Mayadeen. Also hit were targets near Al Hasakah, Abu Kamail and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates river.

The US said that these “small-scale refineries” provided fuel for Isis’s military operations as well as money to finance “continued attacks throughout Iraq and Syria”. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 14 Islamic state militants were killed in Wednesday’s attacks. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in Hasakah province also died. The Observatory said that they were probably the wives and children of the militants.

From the Independent, a man with a point to make:

Iraq and Syria crisis: Iran’s President Rouhani accuses West of turning Middle East into ‘haven for terrorists’

President Hassan Rouhani delivered a searing indictment of western governments in a speech in New York saying they were responsible for sowing the seeds of the outbreak of extremism that has brought turmoil to the Middle East and demanded that they “acknowledge their errors” and apologise.

“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hand of madmen, who now spare no one,” Mr. Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly. “Currently our peoples are paying the price. Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism. Today’s anti-Westemism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism.”

“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists,’ President Rouhani declared. “Military aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and improper interference in the developments in Syria are clear examples of this erroneous strategic approach in the Middle East.”

And for anyone interested, here are his full remarks, via RT:

‘Certain states helped create Islamist extremism’ – Iran’s Rouhani to UN Gen Assembly

Program notes:

The rise of violent extremism around the world is the fault of “certain states” and “intelligence agencies” that have helped to create it and are failing to withstand it, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in an address to the UN General Assembly

BBC News responds:

French hostage beheading: France to boost Syria rebels

France has announced it will tighten security around transport and public places following the killing of a French hostage by jihadists in Algeria.

It will also boost its support for Syrian opposition forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The move was announced by the office of President Francois Hollande after a high-level emergency meeting.

Militants allied to IS killed French tourist Herve Gourdel after demanding that France halt air strikes on IS.

Allegations, via the Associated Press:

Iraqi PM: Plot to attack US, Paris Subways

Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captive Islamic State militants told his intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris.

A senior Obama administration official said no one in the U.S. government is aware of such a plot, adding that the claim was never brought up in meetings with Iraqi officials this week in New York. President Barack Obama met with al-Abadi Wednesday.

The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Consequent disparagement from BBC News:

Islamic State crisis: US ‘no evidence’ of subway plots

US officials have no indication of a plot by Islamic State militants to attack underground rail systems in the US and Paris.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his intelligence officials had uncovered plans for such an attack. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, he said the details he received looked credible.

But senior US sources have said they have no knowledge of a plot on any subway systems.

From BBC News, warming up the jets:

Islamic State air strikes in Iraq ‘would be legal’ – No 10

The Iraqi government’s request for support in its fight with Islamic State means UK air strikes in the country would be legal, Number 10 has said.

A summary of the government’s position said the call “provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces”.

On Friday MPs will debate a motion backing strikes against IS militants in Iraq – but not in Syria.

Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers recruits:

1,000 fighters from Asia join IS group: US commander

About 1,000 volunteers from the Asia-Pacific region have sought to join the Islamic State group, a senior military officer said on Thursday (Sep 25).

Admiral Samuel Locklear, who oversees American forces across Asia as head of Pacific Command, gave the estimate a day after the United States pushed for a resolution committing major powers to block the movement of foreign militants to Iraq and Syria.

“It certainly is an issue that we’re paying very close attention to today,” Locklear told a press conference in Washington. There’s probably been about 1,000 potential aspiring fighters that have moved from this region, based on kind of our overall assessment. That number could get larger as we go forward, but certainly that’s about the size or the magnitude that we perceive at this point in time,” the admiral said.

From Kyodo News, Abe antes up:

Abe pledges $50 mil. in humanitarian aid to stem Islamic State crisis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $50 million in emergency aid for the Islamic State-induced humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.

World leaders have gathered in New York at a crucial time when the international community is grappling with three major issues — the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL, the Ukraine crisis and the outbreak of the Ebola virus striking West Africa.

The ISIL is “a serious threat to international order,” Abe said. “What is important now is preventing extremism from taking root while also responding swiftly to the region’s humanitarian crises.”

VICE News covers consequences:

Australia’s New Anti-Terror Campaign Backfires Against Its Own Citizens

This summer, as Australian domestic politics hit a tumultuous peak amid mass protests on the government’s draconian federal budget reforms, a complex conflict in far-flung lands threw a lifeline to the country’s leadership.

The Islamic State has posed a real and terrifying threat for thousands since the group began its violent offensive across Syria and Iraq. For Australia’s wildly conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, who has stumbled, winked, and nodded from one scandal to another, the crisis abroad has also presented a chance to redeem his drop in popularity at home.

At a key moment when the PM, elected in November 2013, was at risk of becoming mired in dissatisfaction over his unpopular social policies — including regressive stances on health, higher education, and climate change — the government’s new anti-terror campaign has tranquilized the public’s animosity. But the proposed raft of reforms presented with it has also opened the doors to increased anti-Muslim sentiment and threatens Australians’ right to free speech, movement, and fair prosecution.

“Tony Abbott is fully aware that potential threat plus strong leadership equals good poll outcomes,” Clive Williams, a former Australian military intelligence officer and counter-terrorism lecturer, told VICE News.

TheLocal.no covers noble aspirations:

‘Norway can stop drone war’: UN advisor

Norway has been urged by one of the UN’s top human rights advisors to challenge the US-led coalition for an end to the drone war, branding it ‘dangerous’ and ‘a violation of international law.’

Professor Christof Heyns asked Norway on Thursday to challenge its allies on the US’s use of armed drones which Heyns states violates international law and will, in the long run, make the world become a more dangerous place, reported NTB.

Heyns, who normally investigates and reports to the UN on extra-judicial and illegal executions, said: “The world listens to the voice of Norway for it is often the voice of reason.”

The professor thinks Norway should bring the case to a human rights council of the UN and the general assembly.

Drone ground rules advance, with the San Francisco Chronicle:

Drones for moviemaking win FAA approval

The government granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming, an important step toward greater use of the technology by commercial operators, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.

Dozens of other industries are lined up to follow Hollywood’s lead. Until now, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, had banned commercial drone operations with the exception of a lone oil company in Alaska.

The FAA permits come with limitations, including that the unmanned aircraft be used only in a restricted area, that they be flown under 400 feet in altitude and that flights last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Nighttime flights are prohibited, and reality television shows or other unscripted events won’t qualify for the permits.

From the London Daily Mail, utterly abominable bankster kill-switchcraft:

Driver nearly crashes when her car suddenly shut down on a busy interstate because auto lender hit remote kill switch when she missed a payment

  • T. Candice Smith had to have her car pushed out of on-coming traffic
  • Starter Interrupt Devices allow auto lenders to ‘shut down borrower’s cars at any moment’
  • The devices emit flashing lights, beeping noises and then shuts down the car and prevents it from starting
  • These devices have been installed in more than two million vehicles

T. Candice Smith, 31, and her friend were driving down a three-lane Las Vegas interstate in 2012 when her steering wheel began to lock up. The car’s engine stopped and Smith’s friend had to push the car to the side of the highway to avoid being hit.

Smith told the New York Times that the car’s shutdown wasn’t due to a mechanical failure — it was her auto lender.

Smith’s story is similar to that of many people who have borrowed from auto lenders that utilize what are called ‘Starter Interrupt Devices.’

From the Independent, another lethally trigger-happy cop:

‘Disturbing’ footage shows US officer asking to see man’s driving licence and then shooting him as he tries to fetch it

Shocking video footage has emerged of the moment a US patrol officer asked to see a man’s driving licence and then shot him as he reached inside his car to get it.

In a case described as “disturbing” by South Carolina police, state trooper Sean Groubert, 31, pulled driver Levar Edward Jones over at a petrol station in Colombia for allegedly not wearing his seatbelt while driving.

Footage captured by the dashboard of a patrol vehicle shows Groubert pulling up in front of Mr Jones’ car and asking to see his licence.

When the 35-year-old reaches into his car to fetch it, Groubert suddenly shouts: “Get out of the car!” and then “get on the ground!” while firing four shots at him. At least one of the bullets hit Mr Jones in the hip, leaving him requiring hospital treatment.

Here’s the video via The State in Columbia — and we suspect you can guess the respective skin colors of the shooter and his victim:

Sept 4 Groubert traffic stop

Program note:

Sept. 4, 2014 traffic stop by Trooper Sean Groubert of a motorist for a seat belt violation. The motorist was shot during the traffic stop.

And an update form USA Today:

Ex-S.C. trooper who shot unarmed man faces charges

A former South Carolina state trooper who shot an unarmed man was charged Wednesday with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Sean Groubert, 31, was booked at the Richland County Detention Center. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The charges were brought by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which reviewed the findings of an investigation into the incident conducted by the State Law Enforcement Division.

The New York Times covers a rare thing, an apology:

Ferguson Police Chief Offers Apology to Michael Brown’s Family

The police chief of Ferguson, Mo., issued a rare public apology on Thursday, for the death of Michael Brown, addressing the Brown family directly in a short video posted online.

“I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” the police chief, Thomas Jackson, said, wearing a polo shirt and standing in front of an American flag.

“I am truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street,” Chief Jackson said. “The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I’m truly sorry for that.”

Another case of lethal misconduct by people with badges from the Guardian:

Mentally ill North Carolina inmate held in solitary confinement dies of thirst

  • Medical Examiner’s Office said Anthony Michael Kerr died of severe dehydration in March of this year

A North Carolina inmate with mental illness who had been held in solitary confinement died of thirst, according to an autopsy report released Thursday.

Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, was found unresponsive in the back of a van on 12 March after being driven roughly three hours from Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville to a mental hospital at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety subsequently fired a captain and four nurses at Alexander. A nurse and a staff psychologist resigned.

At the time, Public Safety Secretary Frank L Perry pledged an “an aggressive, yet thorough internal investigation” into Kerr’s death. However, nearly nine months later the agency has not made public any results of that probe.

From CCTV America, a mighty fine notion:

Denver police to record public interactions

Program note:

It’s a high-tech tool that could lessen tensions between the police officers and the citizens they’re paid to protect.

From the Express Tribune, a Pakistani cop turns religious executioner:

Policeman kills blasphemy accused in Adiala jail

A policeman shot two men in jail on Thursday, killing one accused of blasphemy and wounding another condemned to death on the same charge, lawyers and an activist said.

Christian pastor Zafar Bhatti was killed and 70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, who has a history of mental illness, was wounded in the attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad.

In recent weeks, Bhatti had received death threats in prison from both inmates and guards, his family told a human rights group Life for All. He was being held in the same cell as Asghar.

From the Independent, and go they come with apple pie?:

Louisiana high school attempts to raise money raffling guns

An American high school band has attempted to raise money by raffling off guns, in a state which claimed the sixth highest number of firearm murders in the United States just three years ago.

Students at Ovey Comeaux High School, in Lafayette, Louisiana, attempted to sell 52 guns after successful similar fundraisers were held at two schools in neighbouring parishes.

Prolonging the fun, students planned to raffle off a gun every week for the next year, and had already sold an estimated 50 tickets at $50 each – totalling $2,600.

After the jump, cartel petrocrimes in Mexico, blood on the Mexican newsroom floor, an Italian presidential mob trial courtroom appearance, Potemkin nuclear ignorance enshrined, declining NSA Yahooing, FBI cybernanxiety, Shellshock the cybermegavirus, ISIS or isn’t it in China, Hong Kong Occupy activists challenge Beijing, a deadly attack in northwestern China, Abe does a semantic remilitarization two-step, Tokyo moves toward an Aussie military alliance, a push for China to beef up special forces, and a provocative Russian visit. . . Continue reading