Category Archives: Warfare

InSecurityWatch: Media, malarkey, spies, zones


An explanatory note: If you’re wondering why we don’t give more coverage of the events in the Mideast, it’s because those stories are getting wide play, while we tend to focus more on seeking patterns in events that gain widespread attention only sporadically or are otherwise neglected.

First up, via The Intercept, a crucial question in an increasingly Orwellian mediascape:

Should Twitter, Facebook and Google Executives be the Arbiters of What We See and Read?

This week, the announcement by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo that the company would prohibit the posting of the James Foley beheading video and photos from it (and suspend the accounts of anyone who links to the video) met with overwhelming approval. What made that so significant, as The Guardian’s James Ball noted today, was that “Twitter has promoted its free speech credentials aggressively since the network’s inception.” By contrast, Facebook has long actively regulated what its users are permitted to say and read; at the end of 2013, the company reversed its prior ruling and decided that posting of beheading videos would be allowed, but only if the user did not express support for the act.

Given the savagery of the Foley video, it’s easy in isolation to cheer for its banning on Twitter. But that’s always how censorship functions: it invariably starts with the suppression of viewpoints which are so widely hated that the emotional response they produce drowns out any consideration of the principle being endorsed.

It’s tempting to support criminalization of, say, racist views as long as one focuses on one’s contempt for those views and ignores the serious dangers of vesting the state with the general power to create lists of prohibited ideas. That’s why free speech defenders such as the ACLU so often represent and defend racists and others with heinous views in free speech cases: because that’s where free speech erosions become legitimized in the first instance when endorsed or acquiesced to.

The question posed by Twitter’s announcement is not whether you think it’s a good idea for people to see the Foley video. Instead, the relevant question is whether you want Twitter, Facebook and Google executives exercising vast power over what can be seen and read.

From the New York Times, an indictee, making political capital:

Perry Says Terrorists Could Be Entering the U.S. From Mexico

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas warned Thursday that militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other terrorist groups may have already slipped across the Mexican border.

Mr. Perry said there is “no clear evidence” that terrorists have entered the United States illegally across the southern border. But he argued that illegal immigration should be considered a national security issue as well as a social and economic problem, and as evidence he cited the increase in violent crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

“I think there is the obvious, great concern that — because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across — that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be,” he said during a conference on border security and immigration at the Heritage Foundation.

Homeland Security News Wire covers a familiar tale [as when Reagan/Bush I armed Jihadists to fight communists in Afghanistan:

Kurdish group on U.S. terrorist list now ally in fight against ISIS

Factions long held to be “terrorists” by the United States government are now being seen as allies as they fight against an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) advance into the traditionally Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have waged guerilla warfare in Turkey for several decades, and have been seen as terrorists by much of the world community — until recently. The PKK is now being seen as a valuable ally in the fight against ISIS.

Factions long held to be “terrorists” by the United States government are now being seen as allies as they fight against an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) advance into the traditionally Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

From the Guardian, more of that good old-fashioned blowback:

Pentagon: Isis is ‘beyond anything we’ve seen’ and must be contained

  • Defence chiefs describe militants as ‘apocalyptic’ group that will need to be defeated but maintain limited strikes are sufficient

Senior Pentagon officials described the Islamic State (Isis) militant group as an “apocalyptic” organisation that posed an “imminent threat” on Thursday, yet the highest ranking officer in the US military said that in the short term, it was sufficient for the United States to “contain” the group that has reshaped the map of Iraq and Syria.

Army general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in a Pentagon briefing that while Isis would eventually have to be defeated, the US should concentrate on building allies in the region to oppose the group that murdered an American journalist, James Foley.

“It is possible to contain them,” Dempsey said, in a Pentagon press conference alongside the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. “They can be contained, but not in perpetuity. This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated.”

TechWeekEurope takes us into the realm of unalloyed crime in the cybersphere:

UPS Hacked, Customer Financial Data Could Be Compromised

  • The world’s largest package-shipping company says it found malware at 51 retail outlets in the US

United Parcel Service (UPS) has revealed that earlier this year, hackers breached computer systems at 51 of its brick-and-mortar retail outlets across 24 US states, giving them the opportunity to steal customer data, including financial information.

The company didn’t specify the number of customers who might be affected, or the type of malware used in the attack. It also said it doesn’t plan to notify affected customers directly.

“As soon as we became aware of the potential malware intrusion, we deployed extensive resources to quickly address and eliminate this issue. Our customers can be assured that we have identified and fully contained the incident,” said Tim Davis, president of UPS Store.

And Defense One covers a new vein of cash for the publisher of the Washington Post:

Amazon Expands Its Cloud Services to the U.S. Military

Amazon Web Services has become the first commercial cloud provider authorized to handle the Defense Department’s most sensitive unclassified data.

Today’s announcement that AWS has achieved a provisional authority to operate under DOD’s cloud security model at impact levels 3-5 is a major win for the company, as it allows DOD customers to provision commercial cloud services for the largest chunks of their data.

And on to the latest chapter of the Asian Games of Zones, with ongoing tension in Pakistan, India border troubles [external and internal] and new arms orders and a new combat force to add muscle to rhetoric, a Chinese/Korean border buildup, Thai coup consolidation, a Sino/Canadian spooky spat, Korean/Japanese tensions, Japan goes stealthy, a Chinese hypersonic warhead delivery test fail, and yet more “comfort women” agita. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: Asian arms in the game of Zones


From Reuters, the respective arms of the nations engaged in the high stakes, ever-intensifying competition for resources and influence. Click on the image to enlarge:

BLOG Asian arms

New developments in the war on the press


Plus other casualties, one liely self-inflicted, a thousand more the consequence of harsh new economic “realities.”

First up, via The Real News Network, a report on the epidemic of arrests of journalists covering the unfolding drama in Ferguson, Missouri:

Police Continue to Violate Press Freedom In Ferguson

Program note:

With 11 journalists arrested thus far, Truthout.org investigative reporter Mike Ludwig describes how Ferguson police are using intimidation tactics against journalists

Next, from the Associated Press, a reporter withholding a confidential source is treated better in Afghanistan than in the U.S.:

Afghanistan orders NYT reporter to leave country

Afghanistan ordered a New York Times journalist Wednesday to leave the country in 24 hours and barred him from returning over a story he wrote saying that a group of officials were considering seizing power because of the impasse over who won its recent presidential election, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The attorney general’s office called Matthew Rosenberg, 40, into their office Tuesday and asked him to reveal his sources, which he refused to do, the Times reported. On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said the story threatened Afghanistan’s stability and security, announcing that he was being expelled. The statement suggested that the reporting, which relied largely on unnamed sources, was fabricated.

The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry and security agencies had been notified of the expulsion, the statement said.

From Deutsche Welle, finding a message in killing the messenger:

Islam expert on IS: ‘The main message is revenge’

A video depicting the beheading of a US journalist is part of a highly professional media strategy by the “Islamic State,” Islam expert Christoph Günther tells DW.

DW: The “Islamic State” (IS), previously known as ISIS, has published a video which purportedly depicts the beheading of US journalist James Foley. What was the message of this video?

Christoph Günther: The main message is revenge. The aesthetic presentation speaks a clear language. By dressing the victim in an orange jumpsuit like the detainees in Guantanamo, they’re saying, “We are turning the tables on you.”

The second message is one of deterrence: “If you use military force against us, then we will hit back with all means available to us. If need be, we will target all of your citizens that we can get our hands on: Journalists, employees of Western companies in the Kurdish region, and people who work for aid organizations.”

More from the Associated Press:

Militants use British killer as propaganda

Islamic militants are using a beheading video to send a chilling message — not just through the gruesome act, but also by the choice of messenger.

The black-clad fighter who appears to kill journalist James Foley speaks with an English accent, underscoring the insurgents’ increasing use of Western militants to mobilize recruits, terrify opponents and project the image of a global force.

He is the latest in a string of international jihadis — Britons, Australians, Chechens, Chinese and Indonesians — to appear in propaganda for the Islamic State group.

“They like to suggest they have a presence around the world much stronger than it is,” said Charlie Cooper, a researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank. “It does suggest that people all over the world are going off to fight in the tens of thousands.”

From the International Business Times, a mission that failed:

US Special Forces Operation Attempted Rescue Of American Journalist James Foley Before Beheading

Dozens of U.S. Special Forces conducted an operation with both air and ground components earlier this summer to rescue American citizens being held by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria, the White House said Thursday. The news came just a day after the militant group published a video showing the gruesome beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley.

The dangerous rescue mission focused on a “particular captor network” within the Sunni militant group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Several ISIS members were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded, according to CNN. The operation failed when no Americans were found.

“The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by ISIL,” the Pentagon said on Wednesday. “This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”

Vanity Fair hints at more potential tragedies to come:

James Foley’s Execution Raises Fears for Journalists Whose Kidnappings Remain Secret

Foley was not alone. I’d known for some time that he, along with a number of other Westerners, remained in the custody of ISIS. Many people who knew Jim, including his family and his employer, GlobalPost, had been making patient and valiant attempts to secure his release. In the video, the executioner shows off another kidnapped American journalist, Steven Sotloff, a freelancer who has contributed to Time magazine and was seized by ISIS in northern Syria in the summer of 2013, and threatens to kill him too. Foley’s family went public early with the news of his abduction, but most people don’t know about many of the other kidnappings. In large part this is because governments and families have persuaded themselves that the best strategy is to institute a “media blackout” in the hope of quietly securing the release of loved ones. Such blackouts don’t necessarily end with the release of hostages. The few who have been released from the custody of ISIS (about a half dozen, none of them American) appear to have been let go for money or other benefits—and to have been sworn to secrecy. There are arguments for and against such blackouts, and there have been lively debates among the families of the missing about their strategic value, but in principle they seem inimical to the spirit of journalism—and potentially counterproductive.

As a crime, kidnapping is uniquely cruel. Amid all the international concern about chemical weapons, thousands of ordinary Syrians have quietly been kidnapped in the last three years; there are no security companies to look out for them, and there is little outcry when they don’t come back. For a long period of time, Foley’s family, like many other families, had no idea whether their son was alive or dead. According to someone close to one of the cases, other prisoners who spent time with Foley noted that he had been severely tortured. He was also well liked: despite his travails over nearly two years of captivity, he remained upbeat and optimistic until the end. His killing will likely ignite a furious debate about the merits of President Obama’s decision to intervene in Iraq, and whether the administration could have done more to protect kidnapped Americans in Syria.

The Associated Press covers another journalistic fatality:

Press groups urge probe of Honduras reporter slay

Press freedom groups are urging Honduran authorities to thoroughly investigate the slaying of a broadcast journalist who was shot to death outside his home last week.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday condemned Nery Soto Torres’ killing and urged authorities to launch a full investigation and punish those responsible.

Police say two gunmen waiting in motorcycles shot Soto Torres to death Thursday as he arrived home in the city of Olanchito, in northern Yoro state.

The 32-year-old journalist directed and hosted a news program on Olanchito’s Channel 23. At least 46 journalists, broadcasters and media executives have been killed in Honduras since 2003.

From Reuters, the journalism body count graphically depicted:

Journalists in danger worldwide

From the London Telegraph, another kind of information control:

Viewing or sharing beheading video could be a criminal offence, police warn

  • As YouTube and Twitter suspend the accounts of people who share the graphic beheading video, Scotland Yard ones sharing it online could be a crime

Viewing or sharing the harrowing video of James Foley’s beheading online could be regarded as a terrorist offence, Scotland Yard has warned.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said specialists from the Counter Terrorism unit were continuing to examine the footage in order to look for clues as to the identity of the suspected British jihadist but said the public should refrain from viewing the video.

In a statement a spokesman said: “We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation.”

While India Today covers another journalistic wound, possibly self-inflicted:

Fareed Zakaria faces fresh plagiarism charges

Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria, who two years ago got away from a plagiarism controversy claiming he made a “terrible mistake”, is facing fresh plagiarism charges from anonymous internet watchdogs.

The website “Our Bad Media” in a Tuesday report by @blippoblappo and @crushingbort cited 12 instances where Zakaria appears to have lifted passages wholesale from other authors.

“Their findings cast doubt on the three news outlets — Time Magazine, CNN and The Washington Post — which claimed to have conducted reviews of Zakaria’s work and found the so-called ‘mistake’ to be an isolated incident,” said Politico, an influential news site.

And Columbia Journalism Review spots hypocrisy bordering on the surreal:

Why Obama’s statement on reporters’ arrests in Ferguson is hypocritical

Obama defends reporters in Ferguson, but demands compliance from James Risen

In a news conference Thursday addressing the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and resulting unrest in Ferguson, MO, President Barack Obama criticized the arrests of two reporters there on Wednesday night.

“Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” Obama said in a news conference televised from Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s vacationing. On Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested when working out of a McDonald’s in Ferguson. After being taken to the Ferguson Police Department, both were quickly released.

Just minutes after the president finished his remarks, a coalition of journalism organizations at the National Press Club in Washington began a news conference condemning the Obama administration’s attempt to compel James Risen, a New York Times reporter, to identify a confidential source. The menagerie of groups this morning presented a petition, signed by more than 125,000 people, calling on the Justice Department to end its six-year effort to force Risen to testify against his source.

In June, the US Supreme Court turned down a last-ditch appeal from Risen, removing the final legal barrier for federal prosecutors who want him to take the stand.

And from Common Dreams, another war on the press, this time in the interests of another nation:

The Double Identity of an “Anti-Semitic” Commenter

  • Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.

A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.

His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.

Finally, from the Guardian, another body count:

News Corp Australia leaked accounts show 1,000 jobs cut across mastheads

  • Major leak of confidential operating accounts reveal extent of losses with the Australian losing about $30m a year

The financial health of News Corp Australia’s newspapers has been laid bare by a leak of its confidential operating accounts, which reveal the extent of the Australian losses and that the company has quietly shed more than 1,000 staff.

Earlier this month it was revealed that News Corporation’s full-year profit was more than halved as revenue from its Australian newspapers continued to slide.

But the leak gives far more detail about the picture across the mastheads.

InSecurityWatch: Nukes, hacks, cops, zones


Today’s compendium of security woes open with two stories about America’s nuclear arsenal and the folks charged with its oversight.

First up, via the Associated Press, merely the latest instance of a phenomenon all too common these days, given that earlier this year similar cheats were exposed amongst Air Force officers overseeing nuclear missiles:

Navy kicks out 34 for nuke cheating

At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy’s nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press.

The number of accused and the duration of cheating are greater than was known when the Navy announced in February that it had discovered cheating on qualification exams by an estimated 20 to 30 sailors seeking to be certified as instructors at the nuclear training unit at Charleston, South Carolina. Students there are trained in nuclear reactor operations to prepare for service on any of the Navy’s 83 nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.

Neither the instructors nor the students are involved in handling nuclear weapons.

After further investigation the Navy determined that 78 enlisted sailors were implicated. Although the cheating is believed to have been confined to a single unit at Charleston and apparently was not known to commanding officers, the misconduct had been happening since at least 2007, according to Adm. John M. Richardson, director of naval reactors. The exact start of the cheating was not pinpointed.

From the Associated Press again, nuclear spooks:

Former lab worker sentenced in nuke secrets plot

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory contractor has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiring with her physicist husband to sell nuclear secrets.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the sentencing of 71-year-old Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, who pleaded guilty to charges accusing the couple of plotting to communicate classified nuclear weapons data to an undercover agent who they thought was a Venezuelan government official.

Her husband, 79-year-old Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, has also pleaded guilty in the case and is in federal custody pending his sentencing. He was a scientist at the lab from 1979 to 1988. She did technical writing and editing from 1981 to 2010. Prosecutors say both held security clearances that allowed them access to certain classified information and restricted data.

Defense One covers up:

Yet Again, CIA is Concealing Information Americans Should See

Once again, the CIA is concealing information that Americans have a right to know, and once again President Obama should ensure its release.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is set to release a landmark report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. But Obama allowed the CIA to oversee redactions, and it predictably went to town with the black marker. According to committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions.”

From The Intercept, seriously surreal:

U.S. Military Bans The Intercept

The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.

According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.

A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.

From the Guardian, does that include begonias?:

US police given billions from Homeland Security for ‘tactical’ equipment

  • With little oversight, federal agency awarded billions to local police for spending on drones, drugs, vehicles and ‘animals and plants’, among eligible purchases

Billions of federal dollars have been spent since September 11 on purchasing modern and often military-grade equipment for state and local police. But there is little that limits the use of that hardware to counter-terrorism purposes, and oversight of the spending is difficult, according to federal sources and documents reviewed by the Guardian.

In the wake of the Ferguson protests, much attention has gone to the Department of Defense’s program to supply surplus military equipment to police. But that program is eclipsed in size and scope by grant money from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which enables purchases of similar “tactical” equipment.

Under existing federal requirements, police departments and state law enforcement agencies do not need to spend much of that money on preventing terrorism or preparing for disaster relief.

The Wire covers a benching:

ACLU: Officer Who Threatened to ‘F*cking Kill’ Ferguson Protesters Taken Off Duty

A Ferguson Police officer who threatened to kill protesters has been taken off duty after a complaint from the Missouri ACLU, the organization announced Wednesday.

The organization tweeted, “SUCCESS! In response to our letter, officer who threatened to kill #Ferguson protesters has been removed from duty,” soon after posting a copy of a letter addressed to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The ACLU’s Vanita Gupta tweeted “Highway patrol called. They identified the cop. He will no longer be in ferguson.”

In a letter sent Wednesday, the ACLU called on the Missouri Highway Patrol to “identify and remove” an officer featured in the video below. In the video, the officer points a gun protesters and says he’ll “fucking kill” one man. When asked what his name is, he replies “Go fuck yourself.” While Ferguson protests have had “tense moments,” the ACLU argues that the officer’s behavior was “from start to finish wholly unacceptable.”

From the Christian Science Monitor, another containment effort:

After Foley murder, an effort to stamp out jihadi Twitter accounts

The jihad group IS videotaped its murder of American journalist James Foley as a propaganda exercise, fueling a debate over when and how often such groups should be censored on social media sites.

The gruesome murder of American journalist James Foley yesterday was an opportunity for the self-styled Islamic State (IS) to put on a propaganda show. The jihadi group uploaded video of the killing to YouTube and Vimeo and its social media team bombarded Twitter – including targeting journalists and others who closely follow the war in Syria and Iraq – with the links.

Within minutes YouTube deleted the original post and Twitter was not far behind, announcing it would suspend accounts spreading the distressing video. But by that time the clip had multiplied. Users posted slightly different versions to evade detection – YouTube has an algorithm that prevents re-uploads. By Tuesday evening, dozens of copies of the footage could be found with just a simple web search.

As social media sites fought to shut them down, the online followers of IS reveled in the butchery of a hostage and called for more, part of the point of the exercise for the group. Social media has become an important fund-raising and recruitment tool for them. While to most people the murder was nihilistic and repugnant, for would-be internet mujahideen it was a moment of celebration.

PandoDaily catches a contradiction:

Twitter suspends users that share graphic James Foley images — Unless you’re a New York tabloid

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced a new policy, tweeting, “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery.” But far from setting this controversy to rest, Costolo’s announcement has only sparked a greater debate over a social network’s responsibility when it comes to policing graphic imagery posted by users.

For example, Costolo’s tweet seems clear enough — post images of Foley’s beheading and you will be suspended. And yet accounts belonging to the New York Post and the New York Daily News, which both tweeted out today’s front pages depicting what by any standards is “graphic imagery” of Foley, are still chugging along.

A Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider that these accounts would not be suspended, arguing that, depending on a user’s media settings, at least one of the tweets included a warning in place of the photo. But not all users saw that warning, and in any case, letting these accounts off the hook because (presumably — Twitter would not comment on this) they belong to major media organizations, directly contradicts Costolo’s tweet, which didn’t leave much room for interpretation. Making matters even worse, Twitter even suggested the Post’s tweet to one user who didn’t even follow the New York tabloid.

From the Toronto Globe and Mail, numbers to the north:

Spy agency intercepted, kept communications of 66 Canadians

Canada’s electronic security agency intercepted and retained the communications of 66 citizens during its spying on foreigners last year in actions that were taken without a judicial warrant or a court order.

That level of detail on the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), disclosed in a report issued on Wednesday by its watchdog commissioner, had never before released by the Canadian government.

Nor has such information been divulged by other allied intelligence agencies, observers say.

“All of the activities of CSEC reviewed in 2013-2014 complied with the law,” Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe wrote in his annual report.

Via SecurityWeek, Se habla español:

‘Machete’ Cyber Espionage Attacks Target Spanish-Speaking Countries

  • Researchers have identified a cyber-espionage campaign focused on Spanish-speaking countries.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the attack ‘Machete.’ It is believed the attack campaign started in 2010 and was renewed in 2012 with an improved infrastructure.

“Some time ago, a Kaspersky Lab customer in Latin America contacted us to say he had visited China and suspected his machine was infected with an unknown, undetected malware,” Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team explained in a blog post. “While assisting the customer, we found a very interesting file in the system that is completely unrelated to China and contained no Chinese coding traces. At first look, it pretends to be a Java related application but after a quick analysis, it was obvious this was something more than just a simple Java file. It was a targeted attack we are calling “Machete”.”

The malware at the center of attacks is capable of a number of actions, including logging keystrokes, capturing audio and screenshots, taking photos from the victim’s webcam and capturing geo-location data. The malware can also copy files to a USB device if inserted, and can also copy files to a remote server. In addition, it can hijack the clipboard and capture information from the target machine.

From TheLocal.se, is should come as no surprise:

Top ministers count cost of ‘less secure world’

Foreign and Finance Ministers Carl Bildt and Anders Borg held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss how Sweden was being affected by a “less secure” world, and how it would foot the bill for a growing influx of refugees.

“Things are changing and we’re heading towards a much less secure world,” Bildt told reporters at Stockholm’s government offices on Wednesday.

“We have a lot more of Sweden in the world today, and a lot more of the world in Sweden.”

From Wired threat level, does it make you feel more secure?:

Researchers Easily Slipped Weapons Past TSA’s X-Ray Body Scanners

Two years ago, a blogger named Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video that seemed to show a facepalm-worthy vulnerability in the TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners: Because metal detected by the scanners appeared black in the images they created, he claimed that any passenger could hide a weapon on the side of his or her body to render it invisible against the scans’ black background. The TSA dismissed Corbett’s findings, and even called reporters to caution them not to cover his video.

Now a team of security researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins plans to reveal their own results from months of testing that same model of scanner. And not only did they find that Corbett’s weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone’s spine, installing malware on the scanner’s console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person’s body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine’s images.

From the London Telegraph, ditto:

Innocent couple branded shoplifters in CCTV release

  • Police in Devon apologise for airing a ‘caught on camera’ CCTV photograph which told the public to report any sightings of a couple who had done nothing wrong

An innocent young couple found themselves wrongly accused of shoplifting after bungling police issued a CCTV ‘wanted’ photograph of the pair to the public.

CCTV shots of Charlotte and James Cozens shopping in their local Boots with their three-year-old son were sent to the media as part of a “caught on camera” appeal.

They were accompanied by a description of the pair and details of how they stashed stolen goods in their toddler’s pushchair.

After the jumps, the latest from the Asian Games of Zones, including Afghan anxieties, escalating Pakistani tensions, Thai coup consolidation, trouble in Thibet, trash talk in Pyongyang, lecturing Tokyo, and Japanese eyes in the sky. . . Continue reading

Charts of the day II: Deadly tallies for aid workers


From Aid Worker Security Report 20214 [PDF] from Humanitarian Outcomes, the rising death toll for aid workers:

BLOLG Deaths

And the locations of their deaths:

BLOG Death locales

From a Guardian story about the report:

Last year was the most dangerous on record for humanitarian workers, with 155 killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 kidnapped as they attempted to help others in some of the world’s most dangerous places, new research has shown.

The study, released to mark World Humanitarian Day, also reveals that 79 aid workers have died so far this year, making the first eight months of 2014 deadlier for the humanitarian community than the whole of 2012.

The 2013 statistics, compiled by the Humanitarian Outcomes partnership, show a 66% rise in fatal attacks on the previous year, with Afghanistan – where 81 aid workers were killed – remaining the most dangerous place to operate.

InSecurityWatch: Cops, hacks, spooks, busts, zones


Lots going on in the realms of spies, lies, media, and that constantly shifting and increasingly inflammatory Asian Game of Zones.

buzzfeed covers an intelligence failure:

White House “Did Not Know” National Guard Was Being Deployed In Ferguson

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called the National Guard to Ferguson late Sunday without letting the White House know first.

“Folks didn’t know,” an administration official told BuzzFeed Monday. “The White House did not know they were sending it in.”

Nixon gave “no heads-up,” the official said.

From The Wire, and we hope that headline’s not literal:

Pentagon Fires Back At Critics of ‘Police Militarization’ Program

The Pentagon on Tuesday mounted a vigorous defense of the surplus military equipment transfer program that has drawn criticism following the police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Defense Department’s chief spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters during a briefing that the 1033 program was not “some program run amok,” despite images of heavily armored officers in Ferguson that have fed concerns about the “militarization” of local law enforcement.

Congress created the program in 1990 to allow police departments to apply for free transfers of excess military equipment as local authorities sought to beef up security to combat drug gangs. Transfers have increased as the Pentagon wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vocativ militarizes the neighborhood schools:

Back to School: Make Sure You Pack Your AR-15, Honey

  • If Compton schools were hoping to dispel stereotypes about their area, allowing school police to pack assault weapons is not the way

School’s back in session next week, and the campus police in Compton are packing more heat than ever. That’s not a reference to the hot drought California has faced in 2014—we’re talking guns. Specifically: controversial AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, approved for use on school campuses to prevent future gun rampages.

“This is our objective—save lives, bottom line,” Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told the city’s school board. The board has been told that select campus police officers will be allowed buy the rifles and keep them in their cars, in case of a mass shooting incident or terrorist attack.

On to the spooky front with Deutsche Welle:

Binney: ‘The NSA’s main motives: power and money’

  • Whistleblower William Binney recently made headlines when he told the German parliament that the NSA, his former employer, had become “totalitarian.” DW spoke to him about NSA overrreach and the agency’s power.

DW: In your testimony, you described the NSA as “totalitarian,” and many commentators say that Germany’s Stasi history has made the country more sensitive to NSA revelations. But others have suggested this comparison is too easy. After all, the Stasi also targeted intellectuals and general writers opposed to the East German regime.

Binney: Sure, they haven’t gone that far yet, but they tried to shut down newspaper reporters like Jim Risen [who is fighting legal action by the Department of Justice to testify against an alleged source - the eds.]. Look at the NDAA Section 1021, that gave President Obama the ability to define someone as a terrorist threat and have the military incarcerate them indefinitely without due process. That’s the same as the special order 48 issued in 1933 by the Nazis, [the so-called Reichstag Fire Decree]. Read that – it says exactly the same thing.

These were totalitarian processes that were instituted. And it’s not just us – it’s happening around the world. Totalitarianism comes in the form first of knowledge of people and what they’re doing, and then it starts to transition into using that power against people. That’s what’s happening – in terms of newspaper reporters, in terms of crimes. That’s a direct violation of our constitution.

TechWeekEurope covers a digital Baedecker:

GCHQ Is Mapping Open TCP Ports Across Whole Countries

  • The reconnaissance operation codenamed ‘Hacienda’ supplies the agency with some of the information needed to compromise systems

German journalists and academics have criticised Britain’s intelligence service GCHQ for scanning servers round the world, and maintaining a database of open ports which could be used in attacks.

British intelligence agency GCHQ has been cataloguing open TCP ports across entire countries as part of a secret programme codenamed ‘Hacienda’, reports German publication Heise Online.

The database resulting from the scans is used in other GCHQ surveillance projects and shared with the rest of the Five Eyes – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – using the secure MAILORDER transport protocol.

An open port can enable the attackers to identify services that are running on a server with the view to compromise it. According to Heise, Hacienda targeted 32 countries since 2009, and has completely mapped ports of at least 27.

From  Nextgox, and significant:

Exclusive: Nuke Regulator Hacked by Suspected Foreign Powers

Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers within the past three years were successfully hacked by foreigners twice and also by an unidentifiable individual, according to an internal investigation.

One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in “a logon-credential harvesting attempt,” according to an inspector general report Nextgov obtained through an open-records request.

The phishing emails baited personnel by asking them to verify their user accounts by clicking a link and logging in. The link really took victims to “a cloud-based Google spreadsheet.”

From the Guardian, domestic espionage:

25 Turkish police officers arrested amid Erdogan wiretapping scandal

  • Swoop in cities including Istanbul and Izmir during investigation linked to government corruption claims

Twenty-five police officers have been arrested by Turkish authorities in the latest nationwide swoop to detain suspects alleged to have illegally wiretapped key government figures, including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said.

Police carried out raids in 12 cities, including Istanbul and Izmir, as part of an investigation into allegations of espionage and illegal wiretapping, the private Dog(an news agency reported.

The swoop on Tuesday was the third such roundup since July in a probe that has resulted in dozens of arrests and raised tensions as Erdog(an prepares for his inauguration as president on 28 August.

From intelNews, evoking suspicions of Mossad?:

‘Sensitive files’ stolen as Saudi motorcade is ambushed in Paris

A 12-vehicle entourage transporting a Saudi royal to a Paris airport was ambushed on Monday in cinematic fashion by heavily armed men, who stole a suitcase full of cash and diplomatic files described as “sensitive”.

French police are trying to determine whether the ambush, which occurred on Monday evening just north of downtown Paris, was aimed at the money or the documents, which French newspaper Le Parisien described as “sensitive”. According to French police, the Saudi motorcade was heading from the renowned Four Seasons George V hotel on the Champs Elysées to Le Bourget airport, 15 miles north of Paris, which handles private jets. But as the convoy drove through Porte de la Chapelle, two BMWs without license tags suddenly made their way to the top of the motorcade and forced it to stop.

Within seconds, eight heavily armed men brandishing handguns and AK-47s stormed out of the two cars and hijacked a Mercedes minivan that was part of the motorcade. Several of them boarded the vehicle and drove away, taking with them its three occupants, a driver, a bodyguard and another official. Later on, the three hostages were abandoned by the side of the road. The minivan, as well as one of the two BMWs used by the armed assailants, were later found burnt out in the village of Saint-Mesmes, northeast of the French capital. But the thieves took with them a suitcase containing €250,000 ($330,000) in cash, as well as what the French press said were “important diplomatic documents”.

Deutsche Welle covers spooky journalistic blowback:

BND head to discuss Spiegel report with top Turkey spy

The German and Turkish intelligence heads will meet to discuss reports that Berlin routinely spied on its NATO partner. On Monday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador in Ankara, Eberhard Pohl.

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported that the chiefs of the two countries’ spy agencies had agreed to meet after Turkey’s Ahmet Davutoglu spoke by phone with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his German counterpart, whose office confirmed that the two foreign ministers engaged in a “long talk.”

A spokeswoman for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, would neither confirm nor deny the meeting to news agencies on Tuesday.

Turkish officials have demanded an explanation after news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Germany had repeatedly eavesdropped on officials from the country. Anakara called the spying “unacceptable.”

From MIT Technology Review, a red light alert:

Researchers Hack Into Michigan’s Traffic Lights

  • Security flaws in a system of networked stoplights point to looming problems with an increasingly connected infrastructure.

With permission from a local road agency, researchers in Michigan hacked into nearly 100 wirelessly networked traffic lights, highlighting security issues that they say are likely to pervade networked traffic infrastructure around the country. More than 40 states currently use such systems to keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible, helping to reduce emissions and delays.

The team, led by University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman, found three major weaknesses in the traffic light system: unencrypted wireless connections, the use of default usernames and passwords that could be found online, and a debugging port that is easy to attack.

“The vulnerabilities we discover in the infrastructure are not a fault of any one device or design choice, but rather show a systemic lack of security consciousness,” the researchers report in a paper they’re presenting this week at a computer security conference. They did not disclose exactly where in Michigan they did the research.

Network World takes wing:

Senator questions airlines’ data privacy practices

A senior U.S. senator is asking airlines about their data privacy practices, saying he’s concerned about what information the companies are collecting and sharing with third parties.

Some consumer advocates have raised concerns that airline privacy policies “can contain substantial caveats and that it is difficult for consumers to learn what information airlines and others in the travel sector are collecting, keeping, and sharing about them,” Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, wrote in a letter to 10 U.S. airlines Monday.

The airlines receiving the letters included United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Airlines contacted about Rockefeller’s letter didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments.

From the Los Angeles Times, security for conspicuous consumers:

New Corvette will record every move a valet driver makes

  • Attention valet drivers: Don’t get frisky with the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette — big brother is watching.

General Motors is offering next year’s model of the famous sport coupe with a data recorder that captures video, audio and driving data from the vehicle when switched into a special “Valet Mode.”

Valet Mode is displayed on the touchscreen panel of the 2015 Corvette. Data and video can be viewed instantly by the owner on the screen when the car is parked, or it can be downloaded to a computer. (GM / Associated Press)

The Vette’s owner can come back from dinner and check out if the valet was testing the sports car’s 3.8 second zero to 60 mph time. The car will have recorded data such as speed, engine RPM, which gears have been used and the highest level of g-force incurred on that joy ride to the parking garage.

EUobserver covers critique:

EU justice chief criticises Google on ‘right to be forgotten’

The EU’s justice commissioner has accused internet giant Google of leading a campaign to shoot down data protection reforms.

Speaking in Lyon, France on Monday (18 August), the commissioner, Martine Reicherts, said: “Google and other affected companies who complain loudly” about a recent EU court verdict on personal data are “detractors … attempting to throw a new spanner in the works”.

The Luxembourg-based EU court in May ruled that Google must remove links to any content that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” or face a fine.

From Deutsche Welle, with a suggestion that they try American police departments:

Uncertain outlook for German arms industry

  • German tanks, submarines and weapons are in high demand. They’re exported to Israel despite the war in Gaza, and Kurdish fighters would also welcome a shipment. Yet the defense industry is worried about its future.

When trade unions look to politicians for help, they’re generally hoping for backing in the fight against managers planning job cuts. But when workers’ representatives from the German arms industry met at the Ministry for Economic Affairs on Tuesday, it was for a very different cause.

In this case, it’s the minister of economic affairs himself, Sigmar Gabriel, who is putting their jobs at risk by approving fewer and fewer German arms shipments to worldwide customers. In a letter sent to Gabriel in July, the unionists said that the minister’s decisions were threatening the very existence of a number of corporations in the security and defense industry.

Ernst-August Kiel, an employee representative with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, said after the meeting with Gabriel that they’d debated some “dicey deals,” involving thinner order books and fewer follow-up orders.

And from Sky News, semantics rebooting on the ground:

Exclusive: US Recruits Iraq Security ‘Advisers’

  • The US Army looks to beef up its ‘Office of Security Assistance’, despite Barack Obama ruling out sending troops back to Iraq.

Barack Obama may have ruled out sending “boots on the ground” back to Iraq but in the face of a growing threat from the Islamic State (IS), the Pentagon appears to have hit upon a way to get them back in by the back door.

The US Army’s Contracting Command has issued a tender notice for companies capable of deploying security assistance mentors and advisers in Iraq.

These individuals would be required for a 12-month contract, potentially extendable to a total of 36 months.

After the jump, that latest from the Asian Games of Zones — including Indo-Pakistani tensions rising, Pakistani protests, an Aussie/Malaysian rift abated and terrorism foiled in Malaysia, a high-level Taiwanese security sacking, Chinese border and terror strategems, Japanese armaments move, Shinzo Abe’s militarism redux, Japanese Korean fears, semantic riffs, and a Nazi pasta invasion. . . Continue reading

America’s militarized police: Finally in the open


And it’s true both nationally, and in esnl’s own back yard.

First up, a pair of editorial cartoons from California papers, with the first from David Horsey, graphic commentator for the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Horsey

And then there’s this, from Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee:

BLOG Ohman

Next, from RT America’s Breaking the Set, the Bay Area’s own Abby Martin weighs in on a program designed to turn beat cops into paramilitary troopers:

US Police Train with Foreign Militaries to Crackdown on Dissent

Program notes:

Abby Martin remarks on the growing militarization of America’s local police forces in the midst of the unrest in Ferguson, MO, highlighting a program known as Urban Shield, where US police forces train and learn military tactics together.

Here on the shores of San Francisco Bay, the region’s own Urban Shield copfest is scheduled for five days starting 4 September.

Here’s how the operation’s website describes the program:

Urban Shield has grown into a comprehensive, full-scale regional preparedness exercise assessing the overall Bay Area UASI Region’s response capabilities related to multi-discipline planning, policies, procedures, organization, equipment and training. Urban Shield continues to test regional integrated systems for prevention, protection, response and recovery in our high-threat, high-density urban area. The exercise evaluates our existing level of preparedness and capabilities, identifying not only what we do well, but areas in need of improvement. The previous years’ After Action Reports are referenced and used to assist in prioritizing upcoming expenditures possible for the region so we may become more prepared for any type of critical event or incident in our area.

And there’s even a video produced by Dolphin Graphics and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office [and featuring an assistant sheriff with an Orwellian name] designed to entice would-be participants into signing up:

Urban Shield, “First Responder Training” Short Documentary

Program notes:

Urban Shield Alameda County is a full-scale exercise, designed to assess and validate the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of response capabilities, as well as test the adequacy of regional policies, plans, procedures and protocols. The Urban Shield exercise incorporates regional critical infrastructure, emergency operation centers, regional communication systems, equipment and assets, new technologies, as well as personnel representing all aspects of emergency response teams including intelligence, law enforcement, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Units, Fire, EMS, etc.

And guess what Bay Area city won top SWAT team honors in last year’s competition?

We have the picture:

BLOG Berkeley SSWAT

On a more permanent basis, militarization of Bay Area police has been enhanced by another program from the Department of Homeland Security, the Bay Area UASI, a ten-county regional government managed by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

From the program’s website:

The Bay Area UASI is a regional program that provides financial assistance to improve the Bay Area’s capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist incidents or related catastrophic events. Projects facilitated by the program enhance regional capability through regional collaboration and efficient allocation of funds available.

>snip<

The UASI program is the only federal homeland security grant program that requires regional governance, strategic planning and investing involving all disciplines (law enforcement, fire service, public health and medical, public works, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and emergency management) in order to acquire the necessary plans, organization, equipment, training and exercises. In 2006, DHS combined the three previously independent jurisdictions of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose into the current Bay Area UASI. The Bay Area UASI is located in northern California and is comprised of twelve counties and three core cities. The twelve counties are inclusive of over 100 incorporated cities and a combined total population exceeding 7.5 million people.

BLOG Urban shielding

On a final note, and as we’ve reported previously, as part of Urban Shield, UC Berkeley’s own campus police held a training session with Israeli border police before applying their newly won skills in cracking heads whilst dispersing student Occupy protesters. And the Minister, er, Secretary of Homeland Security back in those days is now president of the entire University of California system.