We begin with suspicions confirmed from the Christian Science Monitor:
Islamic State: Britain’s top diplomat says endgame is regime change in Syria
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says training up to 50,000 Syrian rebels is crucial to fighting Islamic State militants. The US said Monday that Turkey had agreed to train rebels there.
Britain’s top diplomat says the US-led military campaign in Syria against Islamic State militants must be followed by regime change in Damascus, the seat of power for President Bashar al-Assad.
In an interview, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would help the US to stand up a proxy army in Syria that would be capable of fighting both Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and President Assad’s forces. The US Congress last month approved a spending bill to train and arm a force of moderate Syrian rebels.
Mr. Hammond says Britain, which has carried out airstrikes in Iraq against IS targets, may join the US-led bombing campaign in Syria. But he insists that the end goal of military intervention in Syria’s civil war, now into its fourth year, must be the removal of Assad. And he rejects the suggestion by some former defense officials in Britain, including the former head of the army, that the West may have to make common cause with Assad against IS, as the greater threat to global security.
Curious, via Reuters:
Syria’s air force ramps up strikes in west as U.S. hits east
Syria’s air force carried out strikes against rebels at more than double its usual rate on Monday, according to a monitoring group, ramping up its offensive near the capital while Washington strikes Islamic State fighters far away.
The intensified air strikes by President Bashar al-Assad’s government will add to the fear among Assad’s opponents that he is taking advantage of the U.S. strikes to crush other foes, including the “moderate opposition” that Washington backs.
The United States says it does not want to help Assad’s government despite bombing Islamic State, the most powerful group fighting against Damascus in a three year civil war. Washington aims to help arm moderates to fight against both Assad and Islamic State.
From the Associated Press, chaos reigning:
Militants take Iraq army camp, bombs grip Baghdad
Militants with the Islamic State group on Monday captured a military training camp in western Iraq, inching closer to full control of the restive Anbar province, as a spate of deadly bombings shook Baghdad, hitting mostly Shiite neighborhoods and leaving at least 30 dead.
The attacks, which came as Iraqi Shiites marked a major holiday for their sect with families crowding the streets in celebration, raised new concerns that the Sunni militant group is making gains despite U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on a visit to Iraq warned that the airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the militant group and stressed that the Iraqi security forces would have to do the “heavy work on the ground.”
From Reuters, the ineffable:
Islamic State seeks to justify enslaving Yazidi women and girls in Iraq
The Islamic State group said it enslaved families from the minority Yazidi sect after overrunning their villages in northwestern Iraq, in what it praised as the revival of an ancient custom of using women and children as spoils of war.
In an article in its English-language online magazine Dabiq, the group provides what it says is religious justification for the enslavement of defeated “idolators”.
The ancient custom of enslavement had fallen out of use because of deviation from true Islam, but was revived when fighters overran Yazidi villages in Iraq’s Sinjar region.
“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided as khums,” it said. Khums is a traditional tax on the spoils of war.
Feeding the flames with the Guardian:
Tunisia becomes breeding ground for Islamic State fighters
- By some estimates, there could be more Tunisians fighting for Isis than combatants from any other single country
Though Tunisia is in many senses the most advanced and secular of Arab states – and the only country to have come through the revolutions of 2011 relatively unscathed – that is only half the story. According to some estimates, there are more Tunisians fighting for Isis than from any other single country.
The Tunisian interior ministry itself estimates that at least 2,400 of its citizens have become combatants in Syria since 2011, and that around 400 have returned. Several thousand more have been prevented from travelling, they say, and there has also been an attempt to close down the recruitment networks. The well-worn routes led through Tunis airport, especially flights to Istanbul, or across the southern land border, via Libyan training camps.
In Douar Hicher, a poor district at the edge of Tunis, it is common knowledge that 40 or 50 young men have left to fight and perhaps a dozen have been killed.
The same neighbourhood contributed four “martyrs” to the 2011 revolution that ousted long-time dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then, amid a general loosening of the control of the state, radical Islam has moved into the mosques and an overexcited free-for-all has overtaken the internet and social media now that censorship has ended.
British blowback from the Independent:
Three more men arrested in London on suspicion of planning terrorist attack
Three more men have been arrested in central London on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. The suspects, aged 24, 21 and 25 are being held in custody after being detained on Monday by the Metropolitan Police.
A spokesperson said: “All three were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”
A search was also conducted at a business address in west London and at a further four homes in the north-west of the capital.
The arrests on Monday were in connection to an alleged Islamist plot that was foiled last week.
Comparative media chops from Defense One:
ISIS Is Better Than Al-Qaeda At Using the Internet
Al-Qaida has an Internet presence nearly two decades old, using various platforms and—more recently—social media to push its message. But it is ISIS, the relative newcomer, that has escalated its Internet efforts to the point that governments are beginning to see winning the Internet as central to the fight against terrorism.
European government officials reportedly met Thursday in Luxembourg with heads of tech companies—including Twitter, Facebook, and Google—to discuss how to combat online extremism. And the U.S. State Department launched its own Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications in 2011.
Much of ISIS’s online strategy stems from lessons learned while its members were still in al-Qaida’s fold. But when the groups split apart, their online strategies diverged as well—especially in how they use social media.
Cjurious covert ops from the Washington Post:
Probe of silencers leads to web of Pentagon secrets
The mysterious workings of a Pentagon office that oversees clandestine operations are unraveling in federal court, where a criminal investigation has exposed a secret weapons program entwined with allegations of a sweetheart contract, fake badges and trails of destroyed evidence.
Capping an investigation that began almost two years ago, separate trials are scheduled this month in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., for a civilian Navy intelligence official and a hot-rod auto mechanic from California who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.
The exact purpose of the silencers remains hazy, but court filings and pretrial testimony suggest they were part of a top-secret operation that would help arm guerrillas or commandos overseas.
Black prison blowback from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
UNC legal team, rights advocates take up cause of tortured ex-prisoner
North Carolina human rights advocates and a legal team from the University of North Carolina School of Law are pressing for an apology on behalf of a man who was tortured in Pakistani and Moroccan prisons over nine years, and, according to documents, secretly transported by the CIA on a North Carolina-based plane.
“I would like recognition of the injustice I went through,” Abou Elkassim Britel, an Italian of Moroccan descent who lives in Italy, said in an email Friday to McClatchy, written with his wife, Anna. “My honor and my dignity have been violated. I was deprived of family and freedom, or a future and career. I returned home after a 10-year exile with my health and mental state ruined, with no work and with much suffering.”
Britel said he wanted the apology as a public recognition of his wrongful suffering and to press the United States and other governments involved “to put an end to abuse and torture.”
The Independent covers reciprocity:
Bahrain ‘spied on political activists living in the UK’
The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate allegations that the Bahrain government and a UK-German technology company criminally conspired to spy on political activists living in the UK.
Three British-based Bahrainis say that sophisticated “spyware” software was introduced to their computers so that the Gulf country could monitor their activities.
Privacy International (PI) has made a criminal complaint against British company Gamma International after evidence was posted online, including real-time conversations in which the company’s staff gave technical support to Bahraini officials in using its FinFisher spyware. The leak of 40 gigabytes of information suggested 77 people had been targeted by Bahrain.
From the Guardian, an Aussie spooky giveaway:
Australia’s defence intelligence agency conducted secret programs to help NSA
- It is unclear, from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, whether programs to hack computer networks continue at ASD
Australia’s defence intelligence agency has conducted secretive programs to help the US National Security Agency hack and exploit computer networks, according to documents published by the Intercept.
The documents, which were leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal new details about some of the NSA’s most closely guarded secrets. The documents describe a class of “exceptionally compartmentalised information” (ECI) that strictly classifies information about select NSA programs.
The information is so secret that some parts of these operations are only released on the approval of the NSA director. The US’s “five-eyes” partner countries, which include Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand, have access to some of this information although release is handled “on a case-by-case basis”.
A collective effort from the Japan Times :
Millions of voiceprints quietly being harvested
Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.
Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.
“We sometimes call it the invisible biometric,” said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.
Those companies have helped enter more than 65 million voiceprints into corporate and government databases, according to Associated Press interviews with dozens of industry representatives and records requests in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
The Register delivers a dressing down:
Cops and spies should blame THEMSELVES for smartphone crypto ‘problem’ – Hyppönen
- Spooks are ‘imperfect’ warns top securo-bod
Law enforcement and intel agencies have no right to complain about the improved security of smartphones because they brought the problem on themselves, according to security guru Mikko Hyppönen.
Policing and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic have been vociferous in their complaints about Apple and Google’s respective decisions to include more effective encryption on their smartphones.
FBI Director James Comey, US attorney general Eric Holder and Europol boss Troels Oerting have all waded in to say that the changes would make life difficult for law enforcement.
“Governments annoyed by companies taking a stand on security should remember they caused this themselves by hacking companies from their own countries,” Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure, told El Reg.
“Instead of just considering attacks from criminals some of the largest software companies have to consider attacks from their own governments too.”
Nextgov covers a hacking claim:
DHS: Attackers Hacked Critical Manufacturing Firm For Months
An unnamed manufacturing firm vital to the U.S. economy recently suffered a prolonged hack, the Department of Homeland Security has disclosed.
The event was complicated by the fact that the company had undergone corporate acquisitions, which introduced more network connections, and consequently a wider attack surface. The firm had more than 100 entry and exit points to the Internet.
The case contains a lesson for civilian and military agencies, both of which are in the early stages of new initiatives to consolidate network entryways.
From the Independent, modified resoration:
‘Rich Kids of Tehran’ are back on Instagram – but this time they’ve been forced to clean up their act
The first post of the new account defended their use of social media as a way of showcasing an alternate view of Iranian culture and society to the rest of the world.
They said: “We have changed the way the world looks at us. People don’t use camels for transportation but some choose to use ‘Italian and German horses.’
“We did not have any bad intentions and we are not against anyone. We wanted to show the luxurious side of Tehran to the world. Only thing we did was to post some pictures on Instagram.
“We love our country and like any other country we have rich and we have less fortunate people. Some rich people in Iran come from wealthy families who have been rich for generations. Others simply made their wealth by working hard.”
Snappish blowback from The Hill:
Snapchat under fire following photo leak
Snapchat could be in hot water with federal regulators after private images and videos from as many as 200,000 people were posted online.
The widely popular photo-sharing service has denied that it was hacked and has instead blamed the release on outside companies that users rely on to store their photos.
But the smartphone application is under new pressure from privacy advocates just months after it settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges it misled consumers about its data collection, and only weeks after an unrelated leak of hundreds of celebrities’ nude photos.
After the jump, foundation funding for U.S. police spyware, protests in Ferguson, another police shooting in Mexico, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang heads to Moscow as ties between the two countries tighten, police and triad thugs attack protesters, an ultimatum follows, and on to North Korea with Kim unapparent and a bodies of dead Americans are used as a political ploy. . . Continue reading