Category Archives: Spooks

InSecurityWatch: Wars, spies, hacks, threats


While environmental news was in short supply today, not so stories from the realms of the bellicose, the intrusive, and the criminal.

First up, from the Los Angeles Times, that way madness lies:

Cameron vows to destroy Islamic State ‘and what it stands for’

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday praised slain British aid worker David Haines as a hero and pledged to continue working as part of an international coalition to “hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice no matter how long it takes.”

The militant group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, released a video Saturday purporting to show his beheading. Britain’s Foreign Office said the video appeared to be authentic.

“Step by step we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL and what it stands for,” Cameron said. “They are not Muslims, they are monsters.”

From BBC News, boots on the way to meet ground:

Islamic State crisis: Australia to send 600 troops to UAE

Australia says it is sending 600 troops to the Middle East ahead of possible combat operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the deployment, initially to the United Arab Emirates, was in response to a specific US request.

Nearly 40 countries, including 10 Arab states, have signed up to a US-led plan to tackle the extremist group. France is hosting a regional security summit on Monday.

From the New York Times, piling on:

Arab Nations Offer to Conduct Airstrikes Against ISIS, U.S. Officials Say

Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said on Sunday.

The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against the group, also known as ISIS.

“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.

The Associated Press covers the revenue front:

Oil smuggling, theft, extortion: How ISIS earns $3M a day

Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts.

The extremist group’s resources exceed that “of any other terrorist group in history,” said a U.S. intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments. Such riches are one reason that American officials are so concerned about the group even while acknowledging they have no evidence it is plotting attacks against the United States.

The Islamic State group has taken over large sections of Syria and Iraq, and controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries, analysts say. It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the noses of some of the same governments it is fighting: Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

From BuzzFeed, the hyperbolic:

Arizona Congressman Claims It’s “True That We Know That” ISIS Is On The U.S. Border

“It is true that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks.” It appears he’s citing a report that federal authorities have dismissed.

A Republican Arizona congressman says ISIS currently is or has operated on the U.S. border in the past couple weeks, appearing to cite a report that federal authorities have dismissed.

Rep. Trent Franks, appearing on E.W. Jackson’s radio program over the weekend, appeared to cite a report from a conservative website that has been dismissed by federal law enforcement officials about ISIS operating in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso.

“It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks,” Franks said. “So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can to. It is something that is real.”

BBC News eavesdrops:

US and UK spy agencies ‘have access to German telecoms’

US and British intelligence services are able to secretly access information from German telecoms operators, according to a German newspaper report.

A programme called Treasure Map gives the NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, data from operators including Deutsche Telekom, Der Spiegel said. The data is said to include information from networks as well as from individual computers and smart-phones.

Der Spiegel cites documents provided by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

And from Der Spiegel itself:

Treasure Map: The NSA Breach of Telekom and Other German Firms

According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet, including end-user devices. In pursuing that goal, they have broken into networks belonging to Deutsche Telekom.

When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as “Evil Olive” and “Egoistic Giraffe.” Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called Treasure Map even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, starring Johnny Depp.

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn’t just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

From Spiegel via Cryptome [PDF], the cover of the Treasure Map PowerPoint:

BLOG Treasure

And Deutsche Welle has more:

While NSA ‘maps’ the Internet landscape, German tech companies want Cloud cover

Microsoft Germany wants Cloud services to be regulated at home in a bid to protect data from foreign espionage. The announcement coincides with a new report pointing to NSA activities targeting German telecommunications.

In the latest efforts toward warding off foreign hackers, the head of Microsoft Germany is planning to develop Cloud technology that would be offered only within Germany.

Microsoft’s current computing centers in the Netherlands and Ireland are becoming more popular with the company’s biggest clients, Microsoft Germany head Christian Illek told the German daily Tagesspiegel on Sunday.

“But this is obviously not enough for medium-sized German companies,” Illek said.

And from the Intercept, still more:

Map of the Stars

  • The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

“Fuck!” That is the word that comes to the mind of Christian Steffen, the CEO of German satellite communications company Stellar PCS. He is looking at classified documents laying out the scope of something called Treasure Map, a top secret NSA program. Steffen’s firm provides internet access to remote portions of the globe via satellite, and what he is looking at tells him that the company, and some of its customers, have been penetrated by the U.S. National Security Agency and British spy agency GCHQ.

Stellar’s visibly shaken chief engineer, reviewing the same documents, shares his boss’ reaction. “The intelligence services could use this data to shut down the internet in entire African countries that are provided access via our satellite connections,” he says.

Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

From the Guardian, another country, semantics elevated:

New Zealand PM deceiving public over spying claims, says Glenn Greenwald

  • Journalist says he will produce documents by Edward Snowden that prove John Key approved mass surveillance of citizens

An already tumultuous New Zealand election campaign took another dramatic turn less than a week before polling day when the prime minister, John Key, responded angrily to claims by the American journalist Glenn Greenwald that he had been “deceiving the public” over assurances on spying.

Greenwald, who is visiting New Zealand at the invitation of the German internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, says he will produce documents provided by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that prove the New Zealand government approved mass surveillance of its residents by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA.

Dotcom, who is sought for extradition from New Zealand by the US on copyright charges relating to his now defunct Megaupload file-storage site, is hosting an event in Auckland on Monday called The Moment of Truth, which doubles as a rally for the Dotcom-founded Internet party.

From the Independent, the latest police flap:

Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute

Daniele Watts, an African-American actress who has starred in Hollywood films such as Django Unchained, has claimed she was “handcuffed and detained” by Los Angeles police officers after being mistaken for a prostitute.

Two police officers approached Watts and her white husband Brian James Lucas when they were seen showing affection in public, the actress said in a Facebook post.

She claims she refused to produce her photo ID when asked by police, and was then handcuffed and held in a police car as the officers tried to figure out who she was. She reportedly cut her wrist as she was handled roughly by the LAPD officers.

Watts also posted pictures to Facebook, in which she is handcuffed and crying. She was released shortly afterwards.

And from RT America, how ‘bout them apples, eh?:

American police scammed Canadian visitors out of $2.5 billion

Program notes:

American police are targeting their northern neighbors, according to a travel warning from the Canadian government. State and federal law enforcement officers are reportedly shaking down Canadians visiting the US, illegally confiscating legally carried cash. Over 61,000 of these incidents have occurred since 9/11, resulting in $2.5 billion being seized, according to The Washington Post. RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky has more details on the trend.

From the Guardian, a ghost from the past:

Italy targets former Uruguayan naval officer over role in alleged torture

  • Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli denies any wrongdoing after accusations relating to South American’s dirty wars

Italian prosecutors are poised to seek charges of murder and kidnapping against a former Uruguayan naval intelligence officer accused of participating in South America’s dirty wars.

Jorge Néstor Fernández Troccoli has denied any wrongdoing. But in a 24-page document, he was said to have acknowledged that, in the 1970s when Uruguay’s civil-military government was cracking down on suspected leftwing insurgents and sympathisers, torture was a “normal procedure” in his unit. He insisted, however, that it did not go beyond “keeping prisoners for several hours on their feet without eating or drinking”.

In what La Stampa reported was his only statement to investigators, he was quoted as saying: “I declare myself innocent. I do not accept the accusations.”

After the jump, on to Asia starting with penal tourism, a Chinese anniversary, Sino/Canadian rapprochement, a Game of Zones escalation, and a rejection. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Wars, cops, spies, bluster


Today’s coverage from the world of spies, politicians, militarists, and the merely criminal opens with this from BBC News:

Pope Francis warns on ‘piecemeal World War III’

A “piecemeal” World War III may have already begun with the current spate of crimes, massacres and destruction, Pope Francis has warned.

He was speaking during a visit to Italy’s largest military cemetery, where he was commemorating the centenary of World War I.

“War is madness,” the Pope said at a memorial to 100,000 Italian soldiers at Redipuglia cemetery near Slovenia.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau covers the conditionally belligerent:

Americans ready for military action – for now

A nation furious about the beheading of two Americans is eager for military action. At least for the moment. And at least for the kind of low-risk military action now planned.

But the moment could change. As history in Iraq and the Middle East shows, the campaign against the Islamic State might not go as planned. Allies could prove unreliable. The enemy could adapt. The U.S. might have to send in its own troops. And the image could _ could _ change from two U.S. citizens being beheaded to American GIs coming home without limbs.

The country has little patience for an extended campaign involving American combat troops and casualties. Years of prolonged, inconclusive U.S. fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Vietnam, linger in the public American psyche.

From Fox News, semantic disagreement:

White House, Pentagon contradict Kerry, say US ‘at war’ with ISIS

The White House and Pentagon acknowledged Friday that the U.S. “is at war” with the Islamic State — contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry and others who a day earlier refused to use that term, prompting criticism from lawmakers that the administration was downplaying the conflict.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby used almost identical language when pressed by reporters Friday whether or not the expanded military operation against the terrorist group is in fact a war.

“In the same way that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … the United States is at war with ISIL,” Earnest said.

From the New York Times, another human sacrifice:

ISIS Video Shows Execution of David Cawthorne Haines, British Aid Worker

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a video Saturday of the third beheading of a foreign hostage, a British aid worker. The execution was a clear message to Britain, a vital ally of the United States as it builds an international coalition to target the militant group, which has made stunning advances across Syria and northern Iraq in recent months.

The video shows the aid worker, David Cawthorne Haines, kneeling on a bare hill under the open sky, in a landscape that appears identical to where two American journalists were killed by the group in back-to-back-executions in the past month. In the moments before his death, the 44-year-old Mr. Haines is forced to read a script, in which he blames his country’s leaders for his killing.

“I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution,” he said. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State.” He added: “Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”

From MintPress News, a reminder:

How The West Created ISIS

… with a little help from our friends

Military action is necessary to halt the spread of the ISIS/IS “cancer,” said President Obama. Yesterday, in his much anticipated address, he called for expanded airstrikes across Iraq and Syria, and new measures to arm and train Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces.

“The only way to defeat [IS] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.”

Missing from the chorus of outrage, however, has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.

Now despite Pentagon denials that there will be boots on the ground – and Obama’s insistence that this would not be another “Iraq war” – local Kurdish military and intelligence sources confirm that US and German special operations forces are already “on the ground here. They are helping to support us in the attack.” US airstrikes on ISIS positions and arms supplies to the Kurds have also been accompanied by British RAF reconnaissance flights over the region and UK weapons shipments to Kurdish peshmerga forces.

The Associated Press sounds another alarm with a familiar name:

al-Qaida’s Syrian cell alarms US

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

The Hill covers the predictable:

Senators: Curbing NSA could help ISIS

Critics of a proposal to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) say the rising threat of terrorism in the Middle East should give lawmakers pause as they consider harnessing the government’s spy powers.

The bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would handicap American intelligence officials at a crucial moment, they say, and make it harder to track terrorists around the globe.

Supporters of the bill — including top legal and intelligence officials in the Obama administration — deny that it would hamper the country’s ability to track groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They say that it’s a practical response to the uproar over the NSA programs that were exposed by Edward Snowden last summer.

Vice News plays catchup:

The NSA Has Revealed New Details About Its Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden’s Emails

Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden’s available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency’s vast surveillance programs.

According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA’s associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a “comprehensive” investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs “would be expected to be found within the agency.” Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a “original classification authority,” which means he can classify documents as “top-secret” and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he’d raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden’s account and emails “obtained by restoring back-up tapes.” He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with “NSA affiliates” with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

TV3 News Auckland covers contested Kiwi claims:

Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance

The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.

John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.

Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.

Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.

Mr Key has repeatedly denied spy agency the GCSB conducts mass surveillance of New Zealanders, even saying he would resign if it were prove, and he was standing by that today.

From Ars Technica, seeking a memory hole patch:

Senator demands US courts recover 10 years of online public records

  • “Restore access,” lawmaker says of docs purged because of computer upgrade issue.

The head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee is urging the federal bureaucracy to restore a decade’s worth of electronic court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the removal of the thousands of cases from online review is essentially erasing history.

“Wholesale removal of thousands of cases from PACER, particularly from four of our federal courts of appeals, will severely limit access to information not only for legal practitioners, but also for legal scholars, historians, journalists, and private litigants for whom PACER has become the go-to source for most court filings,” Leahy wrote Friday to US District Judge John D. Bates, the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AO).

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a sadly familiar story:

Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online.  Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.

Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic. For example, while Article 4 refers to “provocation aux actes de terrorisme” or “incitement to terrorism”—a clearly defined legal concept—it also refers to “apologie du terrorisme” or “apologizing” or “glorifying” terrorism, implying a condemnation of opinions alone rather than any overt acts, as Reporters Without Borders points out.  La Quadrature du Net’s mini-site on the bill addresses further concerns (in French).

Anti-terror laws have been used in various countries around the world to prosecute individuals for their speech about unpopular ideas. In the United States, the prosecution of Tarek Mehanna—a young Muslim who translated and posted material referred to by prosecutors as “Al Qaeda propaganda”—involved the use of conspiracy and so-called “material support” laws. In Ethiopia, anti-terror laws have been used to silence journalists and are currently being used to prosecute the dissident Zone9 Bloggers. And the list goes on.

From Davis, California, via the New York Times, buyer’s remorse:

Police Armored Vehicle Is Unwelcome in California College Town

The police department of this modest college town is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored car that is the “perfect vehicle,” the police chief told the City Council, “to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”

It is well maintained, low-mileage and free, the chief, Landy Black, said in explaining why the department had augmented its already sizable cache of surplus matériel, including rifles, body armor and riot helmets, with an MRAP: a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

From the New York Times again, tax farming reconsidered:

Mistrust Lingers as Ferguson Takes New Tack on Fines

On Tuesday, the City Council decided to abolish fines that are routinely issued if a defendant fails to show up for court, repeal a “failure to appear” law that led to many incarcerations, and give people a month to come forward and void their warrants. It also created a special docket for defendants who have difficulty making payments on outstanding fines and moved to establish a civilian review board to oversee the Police Department, which is under investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Residents and experts said that while the actions were significant, the problems many drivers face across St. Louis County, where a patchwork of municipal courts enforce an array of ordinances, were so widespread that Ferguson alone could not fix them. Many African-Americans, who are pulled over at higher rates than whites, face traffic fines that, if not paid, can land them in jail.

So the trust level was not high in court and at the police clerk’s window in Ferguson this week.

From the Guardian, another Ferguson revelation:

Ferguson video shows witness saying Michael Brown’s hands were raised

  • Footage of two construction workers moments after black teenager’s fatal shooting appears to support other witness accounts

Video of the moments after black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, indicates that a witness on the scene said the unarmed 18-year-old’s hands were raised when he was killed.

The cell phone footage, released by CNN, of two construction workers at the scene early last month appears to support accounts by other witnesses that Brown was retreating or surrendering when he was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, legal experts said on Friday.

The video shows one of the men raising his hands immediately after the fatal shooting and shouting, “He had his fuckin’ hands up.”

From the London Daily Mail, notable mostly because the victim was white:

Family’s outrage at cops who violently arrested a father of two for ‘appearing intoxicated while taking care of his kids’… but actually has a TERMINAL ILLNESS that makes him look that way

  • Jeffrey Banes, 39, was arrested in West Virginia by four cops who left him choking on his own blood while subduing him
  • His family says Banes’ illness, Huntington’s disease, can make it seem as if he’s intoxicated because it affects his motor functions
  • The violent arrest was captured on camera

And then there’s another arrest caught on camera, raising some interesting questions by an insanely idiotic form of pranking certain to lead to violent deaths should it continue. From RT America:

Swatting prank sends real life SWAT teams after gamers’ opponents

Program notes:

Online gamers are falling victim to a new prank known as swatting. The practice involves pranksters calling police with fake emergencies, resulting in heavily armed SWAT teams busting down gamers’ doors looking for hostages. California is among the first states to propose legislation formalizing a punishment for such fake distress calls, but many are worried the penalties may go too far. RT’s Marina Portnaya takes a look at the trend and the controversy surrounding it.

From Reuters, about damn time:

Next for Corporate America: Body wires and wire taps?

Wall Street executives may have personally escaped the wrath of the U.S. Department of Justice but executives at companies accused of foreign bribery schemes may not be so lucky.

Prosecutors say they are clearly shifting away from only big corporate settlements in such cases and are beginning to target more individuals. The numbers are not eye-popping. But officials say the results are encouraging and these cases may provide road maps for other financial fraud prosecutions.

“Certainly…there has been an increased emphasis on, let’s get some individuals,” said Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Reuters again, with a loathsome threat:

Foley family says was ‘threatened’ by U.S. official over ransom: ABC

The family of murdered American journalist James Foley says it was threatened by a U.S. official who warned that family members could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors, ABC News reported on Friday.

ABC News quoted Foley’s mother and brother as saying a military officer working for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council had told them several times that they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom.

The White House refused to discuss conversations that the family had with officials, but said they involved people from different government branches, including the White House, the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.

After the jump, with self-censoring cameras, the dance floor panopticon, Nazi nastiness in Germany, metadata revelations, a Crimean underwater warrior handover, a new malware threat, a stalemate in Pakistan, an anti-terror treaty sought, Down Under underwater hesitation, America’s pro-Japanese remilitarization push continues, Tokyo goes for the metadata, an American spy light justification, A Washington concession to Beijing, and a dispute over prisoners. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spies, lies, protests, and more


We turn to The Hill for our first headline from the world of spies, cops, cybercrooks, and suchlike:

Spy court renews NSA metadata program

With a surveillance reform bill stuck in the Senate, the federal court overseeing spy agencies on Friday reauthorized the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Reauthorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) allows the NSA to continue to warrantlessly collect “metadata” in bulk about people’s phone calls. The records contain information about which numbers people called, when and how long they talked, but not the actual content of their conversations.

“Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program,” the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement, referring to the section of the Patriot Act that authorizes the program.

From the Guardian, a challenge:

Julian Assange lawyers lodge appeal against Swedish ruling

  • Prosecutors accused of gross breach of law by not travelling to UK to interview WikiLeaks founder in Ecuadorian embassy

Swedish lawyers for Julian Assange have argued that prosecutors are in “gross breach of Swedish law”, as they lodged an appeal in a fresh attempt to break the deadlock that has seen the WikiLeaks founder begin his third year living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“Julian Assange has been kept under house arrest for two years with no medical treatment, no sunshine, no family, no nothing, and this harm should be taken into account when applying Swedish law,” Per Samuelsson, a lawyer for Assange in Stockholm, told the Guardian.

In July, a Stockholm judge ruled that Sweden’s prosecutor had sufficient cause to continue to pursue the arrest of Assange in order to question him about the crimes of which he is suspected. On Friday, his lawyers lodged their anticipated appeal against this ruling.

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, umbrage is taken:

New sparks fly between CIA, Senate Intelligence Committee

Tensions between the CIA and its congressional overseers erupted anew this week when CIA Director John Brennan refused to tell lawmakers who authorized intrusions into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a damning report on the spy agency’s interrogation program.

The confrontation, which took place during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, came as the sides continue to spar over the report’s public release, providing further proof of the unprecedented deterioration in relations between the CIA and Capitol Hill.

After the meeting, several senators were so incensed at Brennan that they confirmed the row and all but accused the nation’s top spy of defying Congress.

From United Press International, the perfect selfie venue:

Berlin’s newest tourist spot: abandoned spy station

  • The empty buildings at Teufelsberg, and their tour guides, are drawing crowds.

A Cold War listening post in the former West Berlin, used by Allied forces and now an abandoned ruin, has become a tourist attraction since the NSA spy scandal.

Admissions by the U.S. National Security Agency that it listened in on telephone conversations of German government leaders was the impetus for German citizens to reexamine Berlin’s days as a spy center. That means a climb up Teufelsberg hill to examine what is left of a collection of buildings erected by the NSA in the late 1950s to listen in on military radio traffic of the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Communist nations.

The facility closed in the early 1990s. After years of neglect, vandalism and trespassing, the property was bought in 2012 by Shalmon Abraham, and visitors can now wander the corridors of the vacant spy center legally after paying a 15-euro ($19.42) entry fee. With its many walls between offices, graffiti is encouraged.

BuzzFeed gets it right:

The U.S. Adds Another Enemy In A War Without End

  • After vowing to repeal post-9/11 war authority, Obama has now vastly expanded it by invoking it in the war against ISIS.

Last night President Obama said he already had the “authority” to carry out strikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In a background briefing with reporters a senior government official explained exactly what authority the president was referring to: the 2001 AUMF.

Lawyers on both the right and the left, including some who used to work in the Obama administration, were shocked. Robert Chesney, a professor of national security law at the University of Texas, wrote in a quick reaction post that the decision was “just stunning from a legal perspective.” In a post titled “Democracy’s Failure,” Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer who once worked for the Obama administration, called the interpretation “implausible” and a case of “politics over law.” Writing for Time, Jack Goldsmith, a former attorney for the Bush administration, called it “presidential unilateralism masquerading as implausible statutory interpretation.”

Rarely in today’s deeply divided world of bipartisan politics do so many lawyers speak so forcefully and with such unison. The reasons we are seeing this sort of legal unanimity is because of what David Cole, writing in the New York Review of Books called “a presidential sleight of hand.”

BBC News ups the estimate:

Islamic State fighter estimate triples – CIA

The CIA says the Islamic State (IS) militant group may have up to 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria – three times as many as previously feared.

A spokesman said the new estimate was based on a review of intelligence reports from May to August.

IS has seized vast swathes of Iraq and beheaded several hostages in recent months, leading to US airstrikes.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Turkey, seeking more support for action against IS.

From BuzzFeed a spooky pitch:

GOP Congressman: Spy On U.S. Mosques To Stop ISIS Recruitment

“Undocumented Democrats are more important to [President Obama] than national security,” Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King says.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King is calling for the U.S. government to begin spying on American mosques to stop ISIS’ recruitment efforts, charging the militant organization is actively operating in mosques across the country.

Although there is no evidence that ISIS is running a nationwide recruitment effort or using mosques as centers to target would be jihadis, King insisted the Obama administration must target mosques for domestic surveillance activities.

“Here’s a thought that occurred to me,” King said speaking to the Deace Show Thursday. “I didn’t look at the population of Germany at the beginning of the Third Reich but it’s probably in the area of 70-80 million is my guess. And out of that Hitler in a few years build something that cost the lives of roughly 60 million people. The radical islamists have 1.3 or more billion muslims to work with. Now they aren’t all supporters. Daniel (inaudible) says 10-15% of them, but that is a huge population to draw from.”

And from TheLocal.fr, the odd couple:

France offers military help to Iraq against ISIS

During a state visit to Iraq on Friday France’s president pledged additional military support to the country as it struggles to combat the ISIS extremists who seized large swathes of its territory.

Eleven years after refusing to follow Britain and the United States into Iraq, France is now trying to take centre stage in a country overrun by jihadists with a leading diplomatic — and possibly military — role.

Just days before an international conference in Paris on peace and security in Iraq, French President Francois Hollande on Friday visited Baghdad, pledging “support and solidarity” for the country’s embattled government.

From BBC News, when spies draw the line:

Israeli intelligence veterans refuse to spy on Palestinians

Dozens of veterans of an elite Israeli military signals intelligence unit have said they will no longer serve in operations against Palestinians.

Forty-three past and present reservists signed a letter about Unit 8200, which carries out electronic surveillance. They said the intelligence it gathered – much of it concerning innocent people – was used to “deepen military rule” in the Occupied Territories.

Israel’s military said it held the unit to ethical standards “without rival”.

And a video report from the Guardian:

The Israeli military intelligence refusing to serve in Palestinian territory

Program notes:

Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.

The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.

From the Guardian again, militarizing the campus:

Tanks at the school gates? San Diego school police acquires its own MRAP

  • Police captain plays down fears of militarisation and says ‘When we have an emergency at school, we’ve got to get in and save kids’

The nation gaped at the sight of a military-grade Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle trundling through Ferguson, but it turns out that was relatively restrained policing.

Relative, that is, to San Diego, where police will use a similar steel behemoth for the city’s schools. The San Diego Unified School District Police Department has acquired its own vehicle, known as a MRAP, and expect it to be operational by October.

From the London Daily Mail, the unspeakable:

‘I will f**king kill you. Do you know who I am?’ George Zimmerman is accused of threatening to shoot driver in road rage incident

  • Matthew Apperson, 35, reported Zimmerman pulled up next to him and the passenger asked, ‘Why are you pointing a finger at me?’
  • ‘Do you know who I am?’ Zimmerman followed up, and allegedly threatened the life of the other motorist
  • In 911 call, Apperson says Zimmerman, threatened to ‘kick my ass and shoot me’ and said ‘he was gonna shoot me dead’
  • The driver also reported seeing Zimmerman in his truck parked outside his work two days later
  • Zimmerman was acquitted last year of second-degree murder charge in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen

Reuters covers borderline discontent:

Mexico President slams Texas governor over border crackdown

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s deployment of National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexican border is “reprehensible” and puts neighborly relations at risk, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said in an interview published on Friday.

Perry, considered a possible contender for the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential nomination, in July ordered up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border, citing an influx of child migrants from Central America and drug cartel criminality.

“Not only is it displeasing, but I think it’s reprehensible,” Pena Nieto told Mexican daily El Universal in an interview published on Friday. “It is an attack on good relations and neighborliness.”

Off to Old Blighty and good intentions run amok with the Worcester News:

Dan Roach in EU right-to-be-forgotten plea to Google over old picture

CONTROVERSIAL internet regulations have struck the Worcester News for the first time.

Google has removed a five-year-old article from its searches, as part of the disputed EU ‘right to be forgotten’ law.

A ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this year means stories deemed irrelevant or outdated can be removed from search engine results. The story in question was about artist Dan Roach, who received a scholarship from the University of Worcester in 2009.

In a statement to your Worcester News, Mr Roach said: “Since 2009, when the story and photograph originally appeared in the Worcester News, my paintings have developed; the work depicted in the 2009 article bears little resemblance to the paintings I’m now making.”

Reuters conveys a request:

Iran wants U.N. atomic agency to condemn Israeli drone ‘aggression’

Iran has called on the U.N. atomic agency to condemn an “act of aggression” by Israel for sending, Tehran says, a drone last month to spy on a site which is at the center of its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

The Iranian move comes ahead of a meeting next week of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency where Tehran likely faces Israeli and Western criticism for failing to address IAEA concerns about its suspected atomic bomb research.

In late August, Iran said it had shot down an Israeli drone that was heading for its main uranium enrichment site near the central town of Natanz.

BBC News covers blowback from that other 9/11:

Chilean MP charged over Pinochet-era killings

  • Rosauro Martinez (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional) Rosauro Martinez is member of the conservative National Renewal party

A member of Chile’s parliament has been charged with the killing of three left-wing militants during the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Rosauro Martinez was an army captain at the time of the incident in 1981.

He led a patrol in southern Chile in search of members of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), which sought to overthrow the Pinochet regime.

A gun battle followed in which at least 11 people died, but the exact details of what happened remain a mystery.

And a video report from CCTV America on events in Chile Thursday marking the anniversary of that other lethal 9/11, a catastrophe back by Washington:

Memorials and violence mark 41st anniversary of Chilean coup

Program notes:

On Thursday, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 military coup that toppled Marxist President Salvador Allende by calling for more information for the victims of crimes during the country’s dictatorship. CCTV America’s Joel Richards reports from Santiago.

BBC News covers the curious:

India probes identity card for monkey god Hanuman

Authorities in India are investigating how Hanuman, the monkey god, has been issued a biometric identity card. The card photo features the character from the Hindu epic Ramayana wearing gold and pearl jewellery and a crown.

It emerged when a postman attempted to deliver the card, but could not find a Hanuman at the address.

When he looked at the photograph he realised it was probably a prank. It is not clear who the iris scan and fingerprints on the card belong to.

And from Al Jazeera America, preparing for blowback:

Australia raises terrorism threat level

  • Government says the move is in response to domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters

The Australian government on Friday elevated its terrorism threat level to the second-highest warning in response to the domestic threat posed by Islamic State movement supporters.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the increase from “medium” to “high” on a four-tier scale on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

The domestic spy agency’s Director-General David Irvine said the terrorist threat level had been rising in Australia over the past year, particularly in recent months, mainly due to Australians joining Islamic State to fight in Syria and Iraq.

From Channel NewsAsia Singapore, a lèse majesté warning:

Thai coup leader warns against insulting the monarchy

Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday (Sep 12) said his regime would use legal, psychological and technological measures to protect the monarchy against defamation in his first official policy speech as premier.

The warning came as Amnesty International said an “unprecedented” number of people have been charged with insulting the royals since the coup, with 14 Thais indicted under the controversial lese majeste law in less than four months.

Revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is already protected by one of the world’s toughest royal defamation laws – anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. “We will use appropriate legal measures, psychological measures and communication technology against ill-intentioned people,” Prayuth said in a televised speech to members of the National Legislative Assembly, without elaborating on the exact methods of scrutiny.

And for our final item, the Independent entertains suspicions:

‘Tiger’ Zhou Yongkang: Did China’s former security chief murder his first wife?

Little is known about the exact circumstances in which Wang Shuhua was killed. What has been reported, in the Chinese media, is that she died in a road accident some time in 2000, shortly after she was divorced from her husband. And that at least one vehicle with a military licence plate may have been involved in the crash.

Fourteen years later, investigators are now looking into her death. Their sudden interest has nothing to do with Ms Wang herself, it has to do with the identity of her ex-husband – once one of China’s most powerful men and now the prime target in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

Investigators are probing the death of the first wife of Zhou Yongkang, China’s retired security czar, a source said. They are looking for evidence of foul play by Mr Zhou in the crash, the source added.

InSecurityWatch: Threats, cops, wars, zones


We begin with the never-exacted price of corporate civil disobedience, via the Guardian:

US threatened Yahoo with $250,000 daily fine over NSA data refusal

  • Company releases 1,500 documents from failed suit against NSA over user data requests and cooperation with Prism compliance

The US government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it refused to hand over user data to the National Security Agency, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

In a blogpost, the company said the 1,500 pages of once-secret documents shine further light on Yahoo previously disclosed clashed with the NSA over access to its users’ data.

The papers outline Yahoo’s secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle to resist the government’s demands for the tech firm to cooperate with the NSA’s controversial Prism surveillance program, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden last year.

The New York Times covers imperial malaise:

New Military Campaign Extends a Legacy of War

In ordering a sustained military campaign against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, President Obama on Wednesday night effectively set a new course for the remainder of his presidency and may have ensured that he would pass his successor a volatile and incomplete war, much as his predecessor left one for him.

It will be a significantly different kind of war — not like Iraq or Afghanistan, where many tens of thousands of American troops were still deployed when Mr. Obama took the oath nearly six years ago. And even though Mr. Obama compared it to the small-scale, sporadic strikes against isolated terrorists in places like Yemen and Somalia, it will not be exactly like those either.

Instead, the widening battle with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will be the next chapter in a grueling, generational struggle that has kept the United States at war in one form or another since that day 13 years ago on Thursday when hijacked airplanes shattered America’s sense of its own security. Waged by a president with faded public standing, the new phase will not involve many American troops on the ground, but seems certain to require a far more intense American bombing blitz than in Somalia or Yemen.

Scope, from the Los Angeles Times:

Obama vows to hunt Islamic State militants ‘wherever they exist’

President Obama outlined a “steady, relentless” strategy Wednesday to combat Islamic State fighters “wherever they exist,” signaling that he will target the militant group in Iraq and neighboring Syria, where the fighters have captured large swaths of territory.

Nearly six years after he was elected on the promise to end America’s decade of wars, Obama detailed a military campaign that is broader and more complex than any other he has launched.

The president said he will expand U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq to include targets throughout the country, and he left open the option to bomb the group across the rapidly disintegrating border with Syria, where Islamic State harbors its weapons, camps and fighters.

intelNews assesses:

War alone will not defeat Islamists, says US ex-military intel chief

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn led the US Defense Intelligence Agency from July 2012 until August of this year, serving essentially as the most senior intelligence official in the US Armed Forces.

He stepped down amidst rumors that he had been asked to resign because his plans to modernize military intelligence operations were “disruptive”. On Wednesday, while addressing the annual Maneuver Conference at the US Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia, General Flynn addressed the issue of Sunni militancy and how to counter groups like the Islamic State.

Responding to a question from the audience, the former DIA director said “what this audience wants [to hear] is ‘kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out, get the T-shirt [and] go down to Ranger Joe’s” (a military clothing retailer). And he added: “we can kill all day long, but until we understand why there are [such large] numbers of [fundamentalist] believers globally, [groups like the Islamic State] will not be defeated”. Flynn went on to say that America is losing initiative in the war of ideas with Islamic radicalism, as the latter is spreading rapidly across the world, especially in regions such as Africa and South Asia.

Homeland Security News Wire covers cognitive dissonance:

Political traffic by Arabs on social media overwhelmingly hostile to, suspicious of U.S.

Researchers found that a great deal of the political and social traffic by Arabs on social media is deeply hostile to and suspicious of the United States. U.S. officials are concerned that Internet users in the Arab world understand history and current events in ways fundamentally different from the American version. “Suspicion and opposition to U.S. foreign policy appear to be so deep and so widely shared, even by those on opposite sides of other contentious issues, that it’s hard to imagine how the U.S. could begin to rebuild trust,” said one expert.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Social Media in Strategic Communication program, launched to help the U.S. government identify misinformation or deception campaigns by adversaries, thereby allowing U.S. agencies to counter them with correct information, has been focused on the Internet traffic on Twitter and YouTube stemming from users in Arab states. There are more than 135 million Internet users across twenty-two Arab states, and seventy-one million of them are on social media networks. Saudi Arabia has the highest percentage (41 percent) of its citizens on Twitter compared to any Arab country.

MintPress News recalls another dirty war backed by Washington:

In Chile, A Dictatorship’s Horrors Go On Trial

Former DINA agent Cristián Labbé has been indicted on charges related to his role in Chile’s dictatorship-era torture. With the possibility of his incarceration looming, justice may finally come to those who have suffered through decades of oblivion.

Memory loss in Chile, or oblivion, has ensured that a multitude of crimes committed during the dictatorship era remain unchallenged. Consequently, Chilean society remains shackled within a paradox of alleged democracy and impunity. Torture survivors find themselves living alongside torturers and murderers — many of whom hold influential positions in government and other respected practices.

The trend is set to change for one former Direccion de Inteligencia Nacional (the National Intelligence Directorate or DINA) agent and torture instructor who has evaded justice for decades. Cristián Labbé — lieutenant and torture instructor from the Tejas Verdes brigade, and later, the Mayor of Providencia — has been implicated in dictatorship crimes through the testimony of Harry Cohen Vera, a former detainee and torture survivor who encountered Labbé and his brutal tactics in November 1973.

Early reports in Chilean media state that Labbé was indicted in the Valdivia Court of Appeals by Minister Juan Ignacio Correa for crimes committed in Futrono in 1973. Predictably, the former DINA agent has denied ever participating in “illegal practices” during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990).

More from Vice News:

Classified US Documents Could Set the Record Straight on Chile’s Military Coup

Thousands of documents have been released in the last 15 years as a result of these efforts and a separate special project launched under the Clinton administration. But some of the key details have yet to be declassified and important questions are still unanswered — largely the murky historical ruling over the extent to which the US was actually involved.

“There are still documents out there,” Peter Kornbluh, the director of the Chile Project at the National Security Archives, told VICE News. Specifically, he discussed some of the major documents that remain classified, some concerning US operations against Allende prior to the coup, cooperation with Pinochet’s government, details of the murder of two Americans, and a Chilean secret police head who was on the CIA’s payroll.

Kornbluh and the National Security Archives — along with activists and organizations — were behind the campaign to persuade the Clinton administration to begin declassifying the documents. Further propelled by Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1998, the State Department established the Chile Declassification Project the following year with an initial release of nearly 6,000 documents from the State Department, CIA, National Archives, FBI, and the Department of Defense.

The first of two Reuters stories about African spy chiefs:

Kenya appoints new intelligence chief amid rising Shabaab threat

Kenya on Thursday swore in a new intelligence chief who it hopes will tackle the rising threat from al Shabaab militants in neighboring Somalia bent on retaliation after U.S. missiles last week killed their leader and co-founder Ahmed Godane.

Major-General Philip Kameru’s appointment as the new director general of Kenya’s National Intelligence Service comes nearly a year after al Shabaab gunmen killed 67 people in an attack on Nairobi shopping mall.

Kenyan security bosses were lambasted by the public for failing to prevent the four-day siege and Kameru’s predecessor, retired Major-General Michael Gichangi, resigned in August under pressure over a rise in attacks blamed on al Shabaab.

And the second Reuters offering:

Congo Republic jails ex-intel official for life over gunbattle

A Republic of Congo court convicted former deputy intelligence chief Colonel Marcel Ntsourou to life in prison with forced labor on Thursday for his involvement in a gunbattle that exposed political rifts in the oil-producing nation last year.

At least 22 people were killed during heavy fighting in Brazzaville last December between state security forces and gunmen loyal to Ntsourou, a former ally-turned-critic of President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Another 59 people were jailed for between five and 15 years after being convicted on charges of rebellion, murder and illegally stocking weapons.

And from RT, that ol’ Cold War 2.0 arms racin’ redux:

‘Deterrence not arms race’: Russia hints it may develop rival to US Prompt Global Strike

A highly-placed Defense Ministry official says that Russia may be forced to match the US Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) doctrine, which prescribes that a non-nuclear US missile must be able to hit any target on Earth within one hour.

“Russia is capable of and will have to develop a similar system,” Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said during a public discussion of the Russian rearmament program for the decade of 2016 through 2025. “But mostly we will concentrate on countering CPGS, as our military doctrine is a defensive one.”

But the official denied that the Kremlin was setting off for another Cold War-style arms race with the West.

Back home and another shooting from United Press International:

New Michael Brown witnesses: Cop ‘just kept shooting’

  • “The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” one of the witnesses said.

Two witnesses of the police shooting of Michael Brown came forward Wednesday saying they saw Officer Darren Wilson shoot Brown despite his hands being up.

The witnesses were contractors working 50 feet away from where Brown was killed. Both men spoke to CNN under the condition of anonymity. They said they saw Wilson approach Brown, who had his hands held in the air, when he began shooting. The witnesses said there was one shot and then another 30 seconds later.

“The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” one of the witnesses said.

Another confrontation, via the New York Times:

35 Arrested as Missouri Police Block Protest on Highway Over Teenager’s Shooting

Demonstrators hoping to block Interstate 70 here on Wednesday to protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown a month ago were barred by the police from entering the highway. The authorities said 35 people had been arrested, most for unlawful assembly but four for assaulting officers.

As traffic continued to move during the late-afternoon rush, demonstrators and police officers, some in riot gear, faced each other in a standoff, at times tense, on North Hanley Road at Interstate 70 near the St. Louis airport. The several dozen demonstrators were outnumbered by more than 100 officers from three law enforcement agencies.

From USA TODAY, another imbalance in the ranks of the armed-by-the-state:

Army commanders: White men lead a diverse force

Command of the Army’s main combat units — its pipeline to top leadership — is virtually devoid of black officers, according to interviews, documents and data obtained by USA TODAY.

The lack of black officers who lead infantry, armor and field artillery battalions and brigades — there are no black colonels at the brigade level this year — threatens the Army’s effectiveness, disconnects it from American society and deprives black officers of the principal route to top Army posts, according to officers and military sociologists. Fewer than 10% of the active-duty Army’s officers are black compared with 18% of its enlisted men, according to the Army.

The problem is most acute in its main combat units: infantry, armor and artillery. In 2014, there was not a single black colonel among those 25 brigades, the Army’s main fighting unit of about 4,000 soldiers. Brigades consist of three to four battalions of 800 to 1,000 soldiers led by lieutenant colonels. Just one of those 78 battalions is scheduled to be led by a black officer in 2015.

And from the Oakland Tribune, the paramilitary arsenal along the shores of San Francisco Bay:

Bay Area police departments got millions in military surplus, records show

Law enforcement agencies throughout the Bay Area have received more than $14 million dollars worth of decommissioned military equipment, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles, and an 85-foot speed boat armed with machine guns, records show.

The acquisitions by local agencies include a $4.4 million fast patrol boat, given to the Alameda County Sheriff’s office in 2005 to patrol the waterways around the Port of Oakland, a $685,000 mine resistant vehicle for the Antioch Police Department and an armored vehicle known as the MAMBA, which can withstand land mines and IEDs, for the city of Concord.

The acquisitions are part of the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, which since 1995 has given more than $5 billion worth of military surplus to police agencies across the country. Although the program has been in place for nearly two decades, information about what individual police agencies received was made available for first time last week by the California Office of Emergency Services, which oversees the program in the state.

From the Guardian, security and packin’ heat in the classroom:

Missouri approves concealed guns at schools and open carry in public

  • Lawmakers supersede the governor’s veto of broad bill that allows concealed guns at schools and drops the required age of permits

Missouri lawmakers expanded the potential for teachers to bring guns to schools and for residents to openly carry firearms, in a vote Thursday that capped a two-year effort by the Republican-led legislature to expand gun rights over the objection of the Democratic governor.

The new law will allow specially trained school employees to carry concealed guns on campuses. It also allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry guns openly, even in cities or towns with bans against the open carrying of firearms. The age to obtain a concealed weapons permit also will drop from 21 to 19.

A more far-reaching measure that sought to nullify federal gun control laws had died in the final hours of the legislative session in May. Governor Jay Nixon had vetoed a similar bill last year that could have subjected federal officers to state criminal charges and lawsuits for attempting to enforce federal gun control laws.

The new regulations, which this time garnered the two-thirds majority needed to override Nixon’s veto, take effect in about a month.

So what could go wrong? From the Associated Press:

Teacher Hurt When Gun Accidentally Shatters Toilet

A Utah elementary school teacher who was carrying a concealed firearm at school was struck by fragments from a bullet and a porcelain toilet when her gun accidentally fired in a faculty bathroom on Thursday, officials said.

The sixth-grade teacher at Westbrook Elementary School, in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville, was injured when the bullet struck a toilet and caused it to explode, Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said.

Authorities initially thought the teacher had accidentally shot herself. They now believe she was injured when the bullet and toilet fragments struck her lower leg.

After the jump, it’s on to Asia, starting with the tragic consequences of the CIA usual a vaccination as cover to get Osama bin Laden, a South Korean spy boss convicted [sort of], Chinese media compliance, a Chinese missile revealed, sneaky Sino/Swedish weaponry dealings, assertive delineation from Tokyo and Manila, and realignments ahead in Europe. . .
Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, law, cops, hacks, zones


We begin today’s walk on the dark side with the latest in Obama’s drive to push Japan back into the past, via Reuters:

Exclusive: Japan, U.S. discussing offensive military capability for Tokyo – Japan officials

Japan and the United States are exploring the possibility of Tokyo acquiring offensive weapons that would allow Japan to project power far beyond its borders, Japanese officials said, a move that would likely infuriate China.

While Japan’s intensifying rivalry with China dominates the headlines, Tokyo’s focus would be the ability to take out North Korean missile bases, said three Japanese officials involved in the process.

They said Tokyo was holding the informal, previously undisclosed talks with Washington about capabilities that would mark an enhancement of military might for a country that has not fired a shot in anger since its defeat in World War Two.

From BuzzFeed, another blast from the past:

Obama Will Fight ISIS With George W. Bush’s Legal Theories

  • John Yoo: “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.”

By ordering the military into action without explicit congressional authorization, Obama is falling back, at least in part, on the same controversial legal theories of executive power that he once rejected.

Not everyone is surprised by the presidential about-face. John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer and one of the primary architects of the “strong executive” theory of presidential power, told BuzzFeed News, “Obama has adopted the same view of war powers as the Bush administration.”

In a preview of his speech on Sunday, Obama told Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press that he was “confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people.” Obama repeated that same line in meetings with foreign policy pundits on Monday and again in meetings with congressional leaders on Tuesday.

While El País covers blowback:

Spain raises terror threat level due to risk of jihadist attacks

  • Security forces to step up monitoring at airports, train stations, hospitals and government buildings

Spain’s security agencies are stepping up their monitoring efforts at the country’s airports, train stations, hospitals, government buildings and other key sites in response to the heightened risk of jihadist attacks.

The secretary of state for security, Francisco Martínez, ordered increased security measures as the government raised the level of the terror threat in Spain from low to high.

The latest crimes claimed by the Islamic State group and the progressive deterioration of the situation in Iraq and Syria are evidence of “a direct threat by jihadist terrorism against Western countries, with particular concern for US, French and British interests,” said the Interior Ministry.

The Japan Times covers the justifiable:

Protests, anger, doubt prevail at Ferguson meeting

Elected leaders in the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer hoped to use their first public meeting since his death as a chance to promote community healing. Instead, they were greeted Tuesday night with anger, outrage and warnings of voter retribution at the ballot box.

Proposals to overhaul the municipal courts and create a citizen police review board were greeted warily, if not with outright skepticism.

“You’ve lost your authority to govern this community,” said St. Louis activist John Chasnoff. “You’re going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal.”

From Salon, revising the unspeakable:

Pennsylvania town will no longer evict domestic violence victims who call the police seeking help

  • Yes, that was a real thing that was happening in Pennsylvania — and still happens throughout the country

A Pennsylvania ordinance that targeted domestic violence victims for eviction has been repealed.

In addition to striking down the law, the city of Norristown will pay Lakisha Briggs, a domestic violence victim who faced eviction because she called the police to report the abuse, $495,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under the “nuisance property ordinance,” landlords were encouraged to evict tenants if the police were called to a residence more than three times during a four month period. Women like Briggs who called the police to intervene in domestic violence incidents were, under the ordinance, labeled “disorderly.”

From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, sad and horrendous [see examples at the link]:

Misconduct at Justice Department isn’t always prosecuted

Dozens of Justice Department officials, ranging from FBI special agents and prison wardens to high-level federal prosecutors, have escaped prosecution or firing in recent years despite findings of misconduct by the department’s own internal watchdog.

Most of the names of the investigated officials, even the highest-ranking, remain under wraps. But documents McClatchy obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time a startling array of alleged transgressions uncovered by the department’s inspector general.

From Associated Press. Once it was jewelers, now fashion:

9 arrests in fashion hub money laundering probe

Federal authorities arrested nine people and seized more than $65 million Wednesday in a crackdown on suspected drug money laundering by Mexican cartels in the fashion district of Los Angeles.

About 1,000 law enforcement officers fanned out across the city’s downtown to search dozens of businesses suspected of taking bulk cash for clothing exported to Mexico as a way to launder money obtained from the sale of cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs in the United States.

The raids came after three separate federal indictments on charges of money laundering and other financial violations. Nine people were arrested, and authorities were searching for four others charged in the alleged schemes, including three in Mexico, federal prosecutors said.

Postmedia News covers spooky revelations:

Accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter takes aim at former colleague Stephen Harper in new memoir

From his jail cell in Panama, accused hospital fraudster Arthur Porter dishes the dirt on his once-thriving political connections with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard in a new wide-ranging memoir that is bound to incense both Harper and Couillard while providing ammunition to their critics.

Porter, who at one point served as chairman of Canada’s spy watchdog, also provides details on the inner workings of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that is entrusted with the country’s most sensitive surveillance secrets.

Porter, 58, has been languishing in a Panamanian prison since the end of May 2013, fighting extradition to Quebec to face criminal charges alleging he was part of a conspiracy to defraud $22.5 million from the McGill University Health Centre he once headed over the awarding of a superhospital construction contract.

From intelNews, booby-trapped buggery:

Mystery spy device found in Lebanon detonates remotely, kills one

A mysterious spy device found in Lebanon was detonated remotely by what some say was an Israeli drone, killing one man and injuring several others.

According to Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV, the alleged spy device was uncovered last week by a Lebanese military patrol near the village of Adloun in southern Lebanon. Most of the region is firmly controlled by Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group that governs large swathes of the Lebanese territory.

The report was later confirmed by the Lebanese Army, which said that the device had been attached, probably by Israel, to the telecommunications network belonging to Hezbollah.

And from Ars Technica, hardly iDeal:

iPwned: Mining iPhones, iCloud for personal data is terrifyingly simple

  • High-end tools, simple hacks can still make iPhone data less private than we’d like

Apple executives never mentioned the word “security” during the unveiling of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, and Apple Watch yesterday, choosing to focus on the sexier features of the upcoming iOS 8 and its connections to Apple’s iCloud service. But digital safety is certainly on everyone’s mind after the massive iCloud breach that resulted in many celebrity nude photos leaking across the Internet. While the company has promised fixes to both its mobile operating system and cloud storage service in the coming weeks, the perception of Apple’s current security feels iffy at best.

In light of one high profile “hack,” is it fair to primarily blame Apple’s current setup? Is it really that easy to penetrate these defenses?

In the name of security, we did a little testing using family members as guinea pigs. To demonstrate just how much private information on an iPhone can be currently pulled from iCloud and other sources, we enlisted the help of a pair of software tools from Elcomsoft. These tools are essentially professional-level, forensic software used by law enforcement and other organizations to collect data. But to show that an attacker wouldn’t necessarily need that to gain access to phone data, we also used a pair of simpler “hacks,” attacking a family member’s account (again, with permission) by using only an iPhone and iTunes running on a Windows machine.

As things stand right now, a determined attacker will still find plenty of ways to get to iPhone data.

From RT, they’ve got mail [yours]:

5 million ‘compromised’ Google accounts leaked

A database of what appears to be some 5 million login and password pairs for Google accounts has been leaked to a Russian cyber security internet forum. It follows similar leaks of account data for popular Russian web services.

The text file containing the alleged compromised accounts data was published late on Tuesday on the Bitcoin Security board. It lists 4.93 million entries, although the forum administration has since purged passwords from it, leaving only the logins.

The accounts are mostly those of Google users and give access to Gmail mail service, G+ social network and other products of the US-based internet giant. The forum user tvskit, who published the file, claimed that 60 percent of the passwords were valid, with some users confirming that they found their data in the base, reports CNews, a popular Russian IT news website

Defense One makes it clear:

Every Part of the US Government Has Probably Already Been Hacked

Consider the testimony today from some of the nation’s top cybersecurity experts before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

High-profile cyber breaches – such as those affecting Target, Home Depot and even celebrities’ private photos – trickle out on a near daily basis. But it’s clear the vulnerabilities aren’t relegated to the commercial sector.

When committee members asked Robert Anderson, the executive assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services branch, how much of government hasn’t been hacked yet, he offered a stark reply.

Despite demurring that he probably couldn’t answer the question exactly “off the top of his head,” Anderson said any part of government that hasn’t been hacked yet probably has been hacked – and hasn’t realized it yet.

Nextgov covers hacks with an ulterior purpose:

Hackers Attacking Israeli Think Tank Aren’t Interested in State Secrets

The website of a respected Israel-based foreign policy institute — the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs — has been infected with code that is trying to steal bank account information from visitors.

The campaign looks like an “advanced persistent threat-style attack” devised to siphon intelligence from government officials browsing the site, but “the threat is ultimately designed to pilfer banking credentials,” Kaspersky Lab reports.

The cyber strike against the think tank is part of a larger operation. Users who visit are redirected through a chain of seemingly innocuous sites affiliated with the music industry and law firms. Ultimately, users are led to a malicious server located in Russia.

And from PandoDaily, uninformed consent:

Study: 85% of mobile apps fail to disclose how they use consumer data

It sometimes seems like every new product begs the same question: Is using this worth giving up whatever privacy I have left?

So many applications and websites request or require access to address books, location history, contact information, and other data that the idea that we even have any privacy left can seem ridiculous. But the important thing is in the asking — it’s better to give that information over willingly than to have it stolen without our knowledge or consent.

Unfortunately, many application developers haven’t learned this lesson. The Global Privacy Enforcement Network — a group meant to enforce privacy laws across borders — studied 1,200 mobile apps and found that many of them gather data without a consumer’s informed consent.

After the jump, on to Asia, with Chinese censorship, China admonishes, more submarine anxieties and anticipation in Vietnam and Taiwan, claim-staking expansion and anger, a Tainwanese espionage conviction, and growing belief in the inevitably of a Sino/Japanese war. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, pols, spies, hacks, zones


Lots of ground to cover and some very interesting stories from the world of deep politics, spooks, hacks, blunders, and the Asian Game of Zones.

First up, from the New York Times, ignorance of history or simply slippery politics?:

A President Whose Assurances Have Come Back to Haunt Him

The comment that has caused Mr. Obama the most grief in recent days was his judgment about groups like ISIS. In an interview last winter with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Mr. Obama sought to make the point that not every terrorist group is a threat like Al Qaeda, requiring extraordinary American action.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Remnick. He drew a distinction between Al Qaeda and “jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

Asked about that by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” last weekend, Mr. Obama denied that he necessarily meant ISIS. “Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.

“I’ve said that regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally — weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11,” Mr. Obama said. And some groups evolve, he noted. “They’re not a JV team,” he added of ISIS.

But the transcript of the New Yorker interview showed that Mr. Obama made his JV team comment directly after being asked about terrorists in Iraq, Syria and Africa, which would include ISIS. After Mr. Obama’s initial answer, Mr. Remnick pointed out that “that JV team just took over Fallujah,” a city in western Iraq seized by ISIS. Mr. Obama replied that terrorism in many places around the world was not necessarily “a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.”

From Want China Times, blowback metastasis:

Influence of ISIS felt in China, Southeast Asia

The influence of the brutal jihadist group known as the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), may be spreading in Southeast Asia and China despite strong opposition from governments in the region.

According to a report from Singapore’s New Straits Times, Malaysian security authorities have identified four new terror groups that have the same broad goals as Islamic State and may eventually join forces to carve out territory in countries like Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to form an independent, unified “super” Islamic caliphate to rule parts of Southeast Asia.

The four organizations, identified by the acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are said to have strong links with similar groups active in the Southeast Asia region as well as Islamic State and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

From RT, maybe they should bust ‘em for trademark infractions:

‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Program note:

RT looks at how sharing the same name as the infamous extremist group is causing a major headache for a number of companies with no links to jihad. And it’s not just corporations that are suffering because of being called ISIS.

From the London Daily Mail, another intellectual property assault?:

ISIS declares war on Twitter: Terror group warns employees they will be assassinated for closing down Islamist propaganda accounts

  • Jerusalem-based group connected to ISIS tweeted threat to Twitter
  • Called on ‘lone wolves’ to assassinate employees for closing accounts
  • Issued specific warning to staff at headquarters in Silicon Valley
  • The social media site is a key platform for the group’s propaganda

From Reuters, blowback in Africa continues to rage:

Battle for Benghazi could break up Libya

Pro-government Libyan forces, already reeling from the fall of the capital, are fighting to prevent Islamist militants from seizing the eastern city of Benghazi and splitting the North African country into three warring parts.

Three weeks after losing Tripoli to a different militia, the army now faces an offensive in Libya’s second-largest city from the Islamists of Ansar al-Sharia, which has overrun special forces bases and is attacking Benghazi airport.

Losing the port city would not only leave the government looking impotent and irrelevant. It would also increase the risk of the country crumbling into de facto autonomous regions: the militants demand Islamist rule, while other armed groups want greater powers for the eastern region they call by its ancient name of Cyrenaica.

From Want China Times, recognition:

US planned industrial espionage against China, Russia: report

Though the United States claims that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage to benefit American corporations, a secret document issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed that Washington had plans to steal information from corporations in China, Russia, India and Iran, says the Intercept, a news platform established to report on the documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The secret document known as 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review anticipates a series of potential scenarios that the United States may face by 2025 from China, Russia, India and Iran. “One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of US corporations,” said the report.

It then recommended that the US government launch a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through clandestine penetration and counterintelligence. Furthermore, the report envisions cyber operations penetrating covert centers of innovation such as R&D facilities. The report also suggested the use of cyber espionage to bolster the competitive advantage of American corporations.

From the Guardian, takin’ it to court:

‘Five Eyes’ surveillance pact should be published, Strasbourg court told

  • Appeal lodged at European court of human rights for disclosure of intelligence sharing policies of UK and foreign agencies

The secret “Five Eyes” treaty that authorises intelligence sharing between the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand should be published, according to an appeal lodged on Tuesday at the European court of human rights.

The application by Privacy International (PI), which campaigns on issues of surveillance, to the Strasbourg court is the latest in a series of legal challenges following the revelations of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden aimed at forcing the government to disclose details of its surveillance policies.

The civil liberties group alleges that the UK is violating the right to access information by “refusing to disclose the documents that have an enormous impact on human rights in the UK and abroad”.

Network World lobbies:

Tech industry groups ask US Senate to ‘swiftly pass’ NSA curbs

Tech industry organizations have written a letter to leaders in the U.S. Senate, to ask them to swiftly pass the USA Freedom Act, legislation that is expected to end the collection of bulk domestic phone data by the National Security Agency.

Disclosures about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs since June 2013 have led to an erosion of public trust in the U.S. government and the U.S. technology sector, anti-software piracy group BSA, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Reform Government Surveillance and the Software and Information Industry Association wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell on Monday.

Reforms contained in the USA Freedom Act “will send a clear signal to the international community and to the American people that government surveillance programs are narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight,” the industry groups added.

But California’s plutocratic senator suggest a politically convenient delay, via the Guardian:

Feinstein: CIA torture report will be delayed as Democrats decide redactions

  • Though 600-page report was planned for September, top senator says arguments may not finish until after midterms

The public release of a long-awaited US Senate report detailing the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques could be held up for weeks as the Senate Intelligence Committee and Obama administration negotiate what material can be included in the document, the committee’s chairwoman said on Monday.

The committee had hoped to release its 600-page summary of the report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of tactics many label as “torture” before Congress left for its August recess, a target that was pushed to September as discussions continued.

On Monday, as Congress returned from its five-week break, Senator Dianne Feinstein said the document would not be released this week, and might not come out before lawmakers leave later this month to campaign for the 4 November congressional elections.

Vice News covers a homicidal excuse:

A Justice Department Memo Provides the CIA’s Legal Justification to Kill a US Citizen

“This white paper sets forth the legal basis upon which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could use lethal force in Yemen against a United States citizen who senior officials reasonably determined was a senior leader of al-Qaida or an associated force of al-Qaida.”

So begins a 22-page, heavily redacted, previously top-secret document titled “Legality of a Lethal Operation by the Central Intelligence Agency Against a US Citizen,” which provides the first detailed look at the legal rationale behind lethal operations conducted by the agency. The white paper [pdf below] was turned over to VICE News in response to a long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department.

It’s one of two white papers the Justice Department prepared in 2011 after lawmakers demanded to know what the administration’s legal rationale was for targeting for death the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen. The first white paper, released last year, addressed why the targeted killing by the US military of an American abroad was lawful. This second white paper addresses why it was lawful for the CIA to do so. Neither white paper identifies Awlaki by name.

The May 25, 2011 document is based on a 41-page Justice Department memo that lays out the government’s legal basis for targeting Awlaki without affording him his right to due process under the US Constitution. For years, the Obama administration was pressured by lawmakers to share the memo, but officials refused — and wouldn’t even confirm that such a memo existed.

From The Intercept, the usual suspects, pocketing loot:

Murky Special Ops Have Become Corporate Bonanza, Says Report

The U.S. government is paying private contractors billions of dollars to support secretive military units with drones, surveillance technology, and “psychological operations,” according to new research.

A detailed report [PDF], published last week by the London-based Remote Control Project, shines a light on the murky activities of the U.S. Special Operations Command by analyzing publicly available procurement contracts dated between 2009 and 2013.

USSOCOM encompasses four commands – from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – and plays a key role in orchestrating clandestine U.S. military missions overseas.

Researcher Crofton Black, who also works as an investigator for human rights group Reprieve, was able to dig through the troves of data and identify the beneficiaries of almost $13 billion worth of spending by USSOCOM over the five-year period. He found that more than 3,000 companies had provided services that included aiding remotely piloted drone operations in Afghanistan and the Philippines, helping to conduct surveillance of targets, interrogating prisoners, and launching apparent propaganda campaigns.

From the Guardian, don’t hold your breath:

Police using military gear in riots could be forced to repay millions in grants

  • Senators express concern over scenes in Ferguson in review hearing on federal militarisation of local police forces

US police forces that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearings into this summer’s riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Department of Justice and the White House were already investigating whether to limit federal programs that have showered local law enforcement agencies with armoured vehicles and military-style equipment in recent years.

But the Department of Homeland Security, one of three US agencies primarily responsible for providing the equipment, said it was now considering whether to demand that its grants be repaid if police are found to have broken a little-known rule prohibiting its use in riot suppression.

More from USA Today:

Senators: ‘Police militarization’ needs more oversight

The federal government is sending more than $1 billion a year to police departments across the country — in the form of equipment and grants — with little assessment of whether that aid is needed and with minimal follow-up on how the weapons or money is used, according to testimony at a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The hearing — co-chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to probe “police militarization” in the wake of the police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo. — focused on three federal programs designed to help local police departments respond to drug crime and terrorist attacks. Lawmakers and witnesses suggested those programs have run amok, haphazardly doling out military equipment and federal funds and transforming some local police into paramilitary forces.

Pressed by McCaskill and others on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, federal officials who oversee the programs testified they had no way to track any “military-grade” equipment supplied by the government or purchased with federal dollars.

Next, from Mother Jones, a story close to Casa esnl:

Video: What We Saw Before Being Kicked Out of the SWAT Convention

This weekend, my colleague Prashanth Kamalakanthan and I attended Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by more than 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security. The five-day confab included a trade show where vendors display everything from armored trucks to sniper rifles to 3-D printable drones. (We documented a few of the more remarkable offerings here.) It also involved the largest SWAT training exercise in the world. Some 35 SWAT teams competed in a 48-hour exercise involving 31 scenarios that included ambushing vehicles, indoor shootouts, maritime interdiction, train assaults, and a mock eviction of a right-wing Sovereign Citizens group. The teams came from cities across the San Francisco Bay Area, Singapore, and South Korea and included a University of California SWAT team, a team of US Marines, and a SWAT team of prison guards.

But on Sunday, at a competition site near the Bay Bridge, our coverage was cut short. A police officer confiscated our press badges, politely explaining that his captain had called and given him the order. The captain, he said, told him we had been filming in an unauthorized location, though he could not tell us where that location was. (We’d been advised earlier that it was okay to film so long as we did not go on the bridge itself.) After several phone calls from both me and my editors, no one could tell us exactly what we had done wrong, but Sergeant J.D. Nelson, the public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department (which hosts the Department of Homeland Security-funded event) made it clear that we could not have our passes back.

And the video, also via Mother Jones:

Inside Urban Shield: The World’s Largest SWAT Training Event

Program note:

At Urban Shield, a first-responder convention sponsored by over 100 corporations and the Department of Homeland Security, our coverage was cut short by police.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covers another misbehavior:

Former Atlanta officer indicted for alleged brutal assault

A Fulton County Grand Jury has indicted a former Atlanta police officer accused of assaulting a suspect, the District Attorney said Wednesday.

Nicholas J. Dimauro, 32, was indicted on two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of violation of oath by a public officer and one count of aggravated assault for the 2010 attack, DA Paul Howard’s office said.

The indictment alleges that in 2010, Robert Wormley was returning to his home at 3 a.m. on Woods Drive when he was approached by Officer Dimaur, Howard said. Dimauro claimed that Wormley was illegally walking on a public street and ran when he tried to question him.

Dimauro apprehended Wormley behind a house on Hood Street, where the officer allegedly hit and kicked a man on the ground, later identified as Wormley, for 15 minutes, according to prosecutors. A resident of the home allegedly witnessed the assault.

After the jump, protesting a Mexican cop’s conviction, a clarion call for reform, a Confederate militia forms, remilitarizing the Axis powers, major league malware, cyberbuffing and cyberamnesia, terrorism allegations in Pakistan, a Chinese admonition, hints of Sino/American thaw?, neo-Nazi woes in Japan and the view from Beijing, a Sino/Indian feeler, verbal sparring over Chinese jets [and problems thereof], and a Sino/Japanese sit-down sought. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: War, cops, hacks, and zones


Today’s look at the latest in spies, geopolitics, invasions of privacy, and the rest opens with the latest rhetorical ramp-up from California’s plutocratic senator and the spouse of the guy who’s not only a University of California regent but a looter of the commons currently profiteering from the privatization of the nation’s post office buildings. From The Hill:

Feinstein: ISIS is ‘major threat’ to US in future

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that the  Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a “major threat” to the U.S., and praised President Obama for going on the offense.

“In my, view, too ISIS is a major threat to this country in the future and right now to entirety of Syria and Iraq,” Feinstein said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She congratulated Obama on the administration’s new offensive, which Obama is expected to share with the public on Wednesday.

“His people are in different regional countries as we speak consulting and are trying to bring in other countries in the region,” Feinstein said. “I think this is major change in how ISIS is approached.”

From the London Telegraph, the latest revelation about the sociopathy of America’s spooks:

CIA ‘tortured al-Qaeda suspects close to the point of death by drowning them in water-filled baths’

  • Exclusive: As the US Senate prepares to release a report documenting US torture programme after 9/11, Telegraph reveals new details about the scope of CIA excesses

The CIA brought top al-Qaeda suspects close “to the point of death” by drowning them in water-filled baths during interrogation sessions in the years that followed the September 11 attacks, a security source has told The Telegraph.

The description of the torture meted out to at least two leading al-Qaeda suspects, including the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, far exceeds the conventional understanding of waterboarding, or “simulated drowning” so far admitted by the CIA.

“They weren’t just pouring water over their heads or over a cloth,” said the source who has first-hand knowledge of the period. “They were holding them under water until the point of death, with a doctor present to make sure they did not go too far. This was real torture.”

From The Wire, echoes of American televangelism:

Putin’s Possessed by Satan, Says Ukrainian Clergyman

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said Russian President Vladimir Putin is under Satan’s control, placing blame for the months of bloodshed on the leader and predicting his “eternal damnation in hell.”

Patriarch Filaret heads the Kiev Patriarchate, a branch of the Orthodox Church that split from Moscow in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the rival of the Putin-linked Moscow Patriarchate.

Although Filaret never mentioned Putin by name, he likened the Russian president to Cain, the Biblical figure who killed his brother, Abel.

From the Washington Post, parasitic policing:

Stop and seize

  • Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes

After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways.

Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice spent millions on police training.

The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes, a Washington Post investigation found. Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back.

Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country.

One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop.

More from the Guardian:

A safer Detroit means big fines and racial profiling for black residents

  • Detroit’s gentrified makeover means more policing of nuisance crimes – but the fines fall disproportionately on black residents

What’s the cost of more police crackdowns in Detroit for “quality of life” issues?

For Xavier Johnson, a young black businessman in the city, it’s $1,500 in fines that he can’t afford.

Call it the price of gentrification. Johnson, a rising star in Detroit’s startup community, is one of many residents paying the price for an aggressive style of policing that has overtaken the city as it cleans up its reputation. Current Detroit residents – mostly African-American – face an added cost of living as the city police pile on nuisance fines to crack down on smaller crimes. The effect is to make the city more appealing to successful, and mostly white, middle class professionals – while burdening the city’s poorest with more bills to pay.

The hotly contested police strategy is called “broken windows”, and Detroit police chief James “Hollywood” Craig has embraced it with fervour.

But some things aren’t allowed, as the Latin American Herald Tribune reports:

Puerto Rico Cops Fired for Sex Video

The chief of the Puerto Rico Police Department, Jose Caldero, announced on Friday the dismissal of two officers for making a sex video at La Fortaleza, seat of the island’s government.

Caldero said in a communique that the cops who were dismissed are Jose Melendez Melendez and Tatiana Pratts Morales, who made a video last February featuring a sexual act.

Besides acts of insubordination and indiscipline, they have been charged with harmful, immoral and disorderly conduct to the detriment of the police force.

They are also accused of using government property to perform unofficial activities, among other transgressions.

And from The Hill, real or placebo politics?:

Congress mulls response to Ferguson with sense of urgency

The violent stand-offs that followed the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer set off a firestorm of congressional criticism over the police response to public protest. Although the saga has largely faded from the headlines, a number of lawmakers will resuscitate it in coming days in order to highlight various proposals designed to prevent another similar incident.

Senate Democrats will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the “militarization” of police departments; a House Democrat will introduce legislation to rein in a federal program providing military equipment to local law enforcers; a leading Senate Republican is mulling his own legislative approach to the police crack-down in Ferguson; and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) plan to use the high-profile event to promote existing bills addressing a range of race-based issues, including police brutality, profiling, youth development and criminal justice reform.

Legislation on such thorny issues has little chance of moving through a highly-polarized Congress, especially given September’s short legislative calendar and the political hurdles posed by the looming midterm elections. But that’s not stopping the loudest critics of the police activity in Ferguson, who are hoping the chaos and publicity surrounding the tragic episode marks a watershed moment in how law enforcement is conducted across the country.

From the New York Times, a story in which the word “Israel” does not appear:

Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.

And a very curious tale indeed from TheLocal.at:

Diplomat investigated for money laundering

A recent leak of court documents shows that US authorities suspect one of their own highest-ranking former diplomats, Zalmay Khalilzad, of money laundering through the Austrian bank accounts of his wife, Cheryl Benard.

Khalilzad, who is is a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and an independent businessman, is married to US-Austrian citizen and social scientist Cheryl Benard, who completed her university studies in Vienna.

From 2003-2009, Khalilzad was U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, and was responsible for advising Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezaa Rice on near-eastern regional affairs.

From his bio at the ational Endowment for Democracy website:

Under President George W. Bush, Khalilzad served as US Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the United Nations. Ambassador Khalilzad was born and raised in Afghanistan, and studied at the American University of Beirut, where he received his BA and MA.  Later he received his PhD from the University of Chicago.

From 1979-1984, Khalilzad was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.  Khalilzad served on the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and as Special Advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs from 1985-1989.  He was Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning from 1990 to 1992.  In November 2003, President Bush appointed Khalilzad Ambassador to Afghanistan, a position he held until 2005, when he became US Ambassador to Iraq.  In 2007, he was confirmed unanimously to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations, a post he held until January 2009.

From BBC News, something to make anyone insecure:

French far-right ‘at gates of power’ – PM Manuel Valls

France’s far-right National Front (FN) party is “at the gates of power”, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned.

He said his Socialist government had to act and speak “differently” to counter the threat from FN.

His comments came after opinion polls suggested that FN leader Marine Le Pen could beat incumbent Francois Hollande in the 2017 presidential election.

More cause for European insecurity, via the Guardian:

Greek laws ‘fall short’ as racist and homophobic violence surges

  • Opposition says limited anti-discrimination bill offers no protection, as rightwing campaigners resist call for civil unions

Nearly three years after it was first brought to parliament, Greek MPs are poised to pass an anti-discrimination bill which human rights groups say still falls far short of dealing with an epidemic of racist and homophobic violence in the country.

Before this week’s vote, gay rights protesters have taken to the streets to denounce the conservative-dominated government’s refusal to extend protective rights, including domestic partnerships, to same-sex couples.

Rightwing MPs have resisted introducing legal protection for gay people despite an alarming rise in homophobic attacks in Athens, claiming that such measures could take Greece down a dangerous path.

Ars Technica hacks extortionately:

Ransomware going strong, despite takedown of Gameover Zeus

  • The botnet takedown nearly quashed Cryptolocker, yet other ransomware continues.

In late May, an international law enforcement effort disrupted the Gameover Zeus (GoZ) botnet, a network of compromised computers used for banking fraud.

The operation also hobbled a secondary, but equally important cyber-criminal operation: the Cryptolocker ransomware campaign, which used a program distributed by the GoZ botnet to encrypt victims’ sensitive files, holding them hostage until the victim paid a fee, typically hundreds of dollars. The crackdown, and the subsequent discovery by security firms of the digital keys needed to decrypt affected data, effectively eliminated the threat from Cryptolocker.

Yet, ransomware is not dead, two recent analyses have found. Within a week of the takedown of Gameover Zeus and Cryptolocker, a surge of spam with links to a Cryptolocker copycat, known as Cryptowall, resulted in a jump in ransomware infections, states a report released last week by security-services firm Dell Secureworks. Cryptowall first appeared in November 2013, and spread slowly, but the group behind the program were ready to take advantage of the vacuum left by the downfall of its predecessor.

Network World covers another source of online insecurity:

Just five gangs in Nigeria are behind most Craigslist buyer scams

Five Nigerian criminal gangs are behind most scams targeting sellers on Craigslist, and they’ve taken new measures to make their swindles appear legitimate, according to a new study.

In a new innovation, they’re using professional check-writing equipment plus U.S.-based accomplices to not raise suspicions among their victims.

“I think the most surprising thing was the number of people in the U.S. participating in this scam,” said Damon McCoy, an assistant professor in the computer science department at George Mason University, in a phone interview.

From Wired, ray gun realization:

Army’s New Laser Cannon Blasts Drones Out of the Sky, Even in Fog

Boeing is building a laser cannon for the U.S. Army, and the new weapon has now proved it will be as capable at sea as on land. The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD)—basically a high-energy laser mounted on top of a big truck—was successfully used to blast some UAV drones and 60mm mortars out of the Florida sky earlier this year, Boeing announced Thursday.

This test was done in a windy and foggy environment, an essential step to proving the technology is useful for naval deployment. The HEL MD used a 10-kilowatt laser—a much less powerful version of what it will eventually fire—to “successfully engage” more than 150 targets at Eglin Air Force Base, a Department of Defense weapons testing facility on the Florida Panhandle. In other words, it disabled or destroyed them.

In simple terms, the laser makes an incredibly powerful, highly focused beam of light and aims it at a moving target. Light equals heat, and, after enough heat has been transferred, the target is compromised and crashes or blows up. The Army and Boeing (which landed a $36 million contract for the project) have been working on this for the better part of a decade, par for the course for a next-generation weapons platform.

From the London Daily Mail, tagging the sheeple:

Australian man who’s had a microchip inserted into his hand so that he can do more with the iPhone 6…maybe

  • Adverting director Ben Slater had the microchip inserted two weeks ago
  • It was implanted in the webbing of his hand at a Melbourne tattoo parlour
  • Mr Slater hopes the new generation iPhone will be able to read the chip
  • He is able to open doors and switch on lights without touching anything
  • The iPhone 6 will be launched by Apple in two days on September 9

A Brisbane man is living the life of the future after having a microchip implanted under his skin so he can control electronic devices with just a wave of a hand.

Ben Slater had a radio-frequency identification microchip – which has similar measurements to a grain of rice – injected into his left hand through a syringe two weeks ago at a Melbourne tattoo parlour.

The advertising director’s move comes as technology enthusiasts eagerly await the unveiling of the iPhone 6 in two days time.

After the jump, Pakistani polarization on the streets and in the media, a Pak hack, a curious collaboration, line-crossing, a Japanese realignment, Sino/Aussie semantics, spooky Korean hackery, and an American on trial in the North. . . Continue reading