Category Archives: Warfare

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, drones, zones


We begin today’s tales from the work of the insecure with a not-so-surprising helping hand from the Japan Times:

Israel provides intelligence on Islamic State, Western diplomat reveals

Israel has provided satellite imagery and other intelligence in support of the U.S.-led aerial campaign against Islamic State in Iraq, a Western diplomat said on Monday.

Once “scrubbed” of evidence of its Israeli origin, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies, the diplomat said.

Israel’s Defence Ministry neither confirmed nor denied involvement in any international efforts against the militant group.

The London Telegraph has one possible result:

Predator drones being flown over Isil’s Syrian ‘capital’

  • Attempt to target al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s leader, comes as Iraq’s MPs back first government, appointments by new prime minister

US drones are being flown over Isil’s Syrian “capital” for the first time as part of a drive by America to target Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the jihadist group’s elusive leader.

Residents of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa have captured photo and video footage of remotely-piloted planes, which Western weapons experts have identified as American Predators, the same drones used in Pakistan and Yemen to attack suspected terrorists.

The US has not publicly stated that it is flying drones over Syria, and the sightings over Raqqa are the first indication that it is doing so.

While Homeland Security News Wire questions another assault:

State Department’s social media campaign against ISIS questioned

The State Department is advancing its anti-terrorism efforts on social media by reaching out to vulnerable English-speakers who could be recruited to join the Islamic State (IS).

The campaign emphasizes IS’s brutality, and, mockingly, advises would-be recruits to learn “useful new skills” such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying and executing Muslims.”

Experts say that there is a psychological error in trying to scare people off with threats that something might be exciting and thrilling. “If you challenge a young adult, particularly a male, with the fact that something might be especially difficult or challenging, you’re just exciting them,” says an expert in the psychology of terrorists.

From the Guardian, another sort of insecurity:

Petition calls on Obama to respect rights of journalists to do their job

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the New York-based press freedom body, has launched a petition today calling on President Obama’s administration to respect journalists’ right to gather and report news.

The petition, “Right to report in the digital age”, makes three key demands of the US government:

It should prohibit the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organisations; it must limit prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers; and it must halt the harassment of journalists at the US border.

In its preamble to the petition, the CPJ argues that incidents of surveillance, intimidation and exploitation of the press “have raised unsettling questions about whether the US and other western democracies risk undermining journalists’ ability to report in the digital age.”

And from the New York Times, insecurity that flows from the barrel of a gun:

The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing

Posse comitatus is not a phrase that trips lightly off every tongue. It is typically translated from Latin as “force of the county.” Anyone who has ever watched an old Western movie will instantly recognize the first word as referring to men deputized by the sheriff to chase down some varmints who went thataway. (Rappers and their tag-alongs later gave “posse” a different context.) The full phrase is more obscure, but the concept that it embraces is enshrined in American law. The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 at the end of Reconstruction and amended but slightly over the decades, prohibits the nation’s armed forces from being used as a police force within the United States. Soldiers, the reasoning goes, exist to fight wars. Chasing local wrongdoers is a job for cops.

But many police departments today are so heavily armed with Pentagon-supplied hand-me-downs — tools of war like M-16 rifles, armored trucks, grenade launchers and more — that the principle underlying the Posse Comitatus Act can seem as if it, too, has gone thataway. Questions about whether police forces are overly militarized have been around for years. They are now being asked with new urgency because of the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where unarmed demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of a teenager faced off for a while against mightily armed officers in battle dress and gas masks. What the world saw were lawmen looking more like combat troops in the Mideast than peacekeepers in the Midwest.

And the accompanying online video from the New York Times:

SWAT: Mission Creep | Retro Report | The New York Times

Program note:

SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to combat hostage-takings, sniper shootings, and violent unrest. But today they’re often used in more controversial police work.

From the Guardian, insecurity commodified in Oakland:

Urban Shield: after Ferguson, police and suppliers consider fate of military-grade tactical gear

Giant black armoured vehicles, assault rifles, gas masks and drones: the modern face of policing in America is on display at a four-day police trade show in Oakland, held mere weeks after a fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

“Warriors”, says the sign emblazoned in huge letters across the top of the Marriott conference center in downtown Oakland. It refers to the Golden State Warriors, the hometown basketball team who have their practice facilities here, but it might equally apply to the unusual gathering inside the hotel.

Sprawled across the ground floor of the Marriott, a trade show was under way that represents the modern face of policing in America. Hundreds of burly men (they are largely men), heads shaved and dressed in battlefield uniforms in black, green or camouflage are milling around in groups of 10 or 20. There to greet them are scores of weapons manufacturers and military-grade technology companies eager to win their business.

On three sides of the hall, giant black tactical armoured vehicles are stationed, wheels chest-height, sides armour-plated to resist an AK-47 round or blast of a roadside bomb, roofs decked out with spotlights, surveillance cameras and swivel turrets able to house machine guns. One of the vehicles, the aptly named Sentinel – 21ft long, 17,500lbs in weight, and costing $250,000 and up – was developed by a Florida-based company called International Armored Group that began supplying the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan. “With all that experience in blast resistance, we decided to branch off into tactical vehicles tailored to police departments at home,” said the company’s Sally Stefova.

The Guardian again, with the same in Spain:

Spain prepares for an autumn of discontent by buying €1bn of riot gear

  • Amid concerns about heavy handed policing, protesters will face a newly equipped force and truck-mounted water cannon

The Spanish government is readying itself for an autumn of discontent, spending nearly €1bn on riot gear for police units as disparate protest groups prepare a string of demonstrations.

Since June, the interior ministry has tendered four contracts to purchase riot equipment ranging from shields to stab vests. The ministry also finalised its purchase of a new truck-mounted water cannon, an anti-riot measure used during Spain’s dictatorship and the transition to democracy but little seen in recent years. Despite attempts by opposition Socialist politician Antonio Trevín to paint the purchase as “a return to times that we would rather forget”, the ministry said in its tender that the water cannon was necessary, “given the current social dynamic”.

The government’s spending spree comes as groups across Spain are predicting a season of protests. “We’re calling it the autumn of confronting power and institutions,” said the activist group Coordinadora 25-S which has its roots in the indignados movement.

From TheLocal.de, overly Aryanized?:

Police ‘must do more’ to reflect diversity

People from immigrant backgrounds are massively under-represented in Germany’s police forces and security agencies, which are not making enough effort to track the problem, a study published on Monday found.

Migration information service Mediendienst Integration asked all 16 state police agencies, the Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the Federal Police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution about their workers’ origins.

Most states do not collect figures on the backgrounds of their entire police forces, and neither do the federal agencies.

In the states which do record such figures, numbers were low.

Ditto, from EnetEnglish.gr:

Greek island police chief snapped giving Nazi salute

  • In 1999, same officer fired shots at funeral of junta leader Papadopoulos
  • Hydra island police chief is photographed giving a Nazi salute in a transport museum in Germany, where such behaviour is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine

A photograph has emerged showing the police chief of a Greek island giving a fascist salute in front of a Nazi-era train in a German museum.

In the image, published in Ethnos on Sunday, Lieutenant Yiorgos Kagkalos, chief of police on the island of Hydra, can be seen with an outstretched right arm. Behind him, on a red locomotive, is a large Reichsadler, a stylised eagle combined with the Nazi swastika used as a national emblem in Nazi Germany.

According to Ethos, the photograph was taken on 13 March 2011 when Kagkalos visited the Nuremburg Transport Museum. The train appears to resemble a Elektrolokomotive E 19 12, a model of which is kept at the museum.

And the key part of said image:

BLOG Heiler

From the Guardian, stirring the insecurity pot:

DHS chief: ‘unacceptable security risks’ if Congress withholds border funds

  • Obama administration’s Homeland Security chief renews request for $1.2bn as flow of unaccompanied migrants slows

The Obama administration renewed its plea Monday for Congress to provide additional money to deal with the unaccompanied migrant children at the border. The request seemed likely to fall on deaf ears as neither party showed an appetite to revive the issue.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that without the $1.2bn in additional funding for 2015, he will be forced to take money from other accounts, such as $405m moved earlier this summer from the disaster relief fund.

“This reprogramming is not sustainable, and leaves the nation vulnerable to unacceptable homeland security risks,” Johnson said.

From the Los Angeles Times, insecurity in the ranks:

Scathing report on Alaska National Guard forces out commander

The Alaska National Guard’s commander was forced to resign after a six-month federal investigation found that some members of the Guard had been ostracized and abused after reporting sex assaults and that Guard members lacked trust and confidence in their leaders.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell asked the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations to conduct the review. After receiving the report,  he requested  the resignation of Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, who also served as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The scathing 229-page report, released late Thursday, found that complaints by some sexual assault victims before 2012 were not properly documented, that the victims were not referred to victim advocates, that their confidentiality was breached and that “in some cases, the victims were ostracized by their leaders, peers and units.”

Reuters covers a body count:

Fueling drug gangs’ impunity, unidentified corpses pile up in Mexico

Authorities’ failure to catch the killers in the vast majority of cases or even identify many of the dead is largely down to poor police work and a haphazard patchwork of forensic services across Mexico.

It also helps fuel impunity and further violence. More than 100,000 people have been killed since former President Felipe Calderon ordered a military offensive against drug gangs in late 2006, a move that led to waves of extreme violence.

Despite repeated requests by Reuters, the attorney general’s office did not say how many victims are yet to be identified.

But partial figures from the National Human Rights Commission offer a glimpse: Between 2006 and 2011, more than half of the 40,000 people reported killed in armed confrontations were never identified.

On to the spooky front, first with the predictable, from National Journal:

NSA Reform Will Likely Have to Wait Until After the Election

Legislation to reform the government’s surveillance programs looks destined for a lame-duck session of Congress—and might not get touched at all until next year.

A bill that would curtail the government’s broad surveillance authority is unlikely to earn a vote in Congress before the November midterms, and it might not even get a vote during the postelection lame-duck session.

The inaction amounts to another stinging setback for reform advocates, who have been agitating for legislation that would rein in the National Security Agency ever since Edward Snowden’s leaks surfaced last summer. It also deflates a sudden surge in pressure on Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act, which scored a stunning endorsement from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last week.

The hard-fought bill has a wide array of backing from tech companies, privacy and civil-liberties groups, the White House, and even the intelligence community. But multiple sources both on and off Capitol Hill say the measure is not a top legislative priority on a jam-packed Senate calendar filled with other agenda items, including unresolved fights over a continuing resolution and the Import-Export Bank.

RT gets protective:

Switzerland ‘unlikely to extradite Snowden’, if he appears for NSA testimony

Switzerland will most likely guarantee safety to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, if he comes to testify against the NSA’s spying activities, Swiss media said.

In the document, titled “What rules are to be followed if Edward Snowden is brought to Switzerland and then the United States makes an extradition request,” Switzerland’s Attorney General stated that Snowden could be guaranteed safety if he arrives in the country to testify, Sonntags Zeitung reported.

In the document, the authority said that Switzerland does not extradite a US citizen, if the individual’s “actions constitute a political offense, or if the request has been politically motivated,” Swiss ATS news agency reported.

A different response in a different country from TheLocal.no:

‘If Snowden wins Nobel Prize, arrest him!’: MP

Should Edward Snowden get a Nobel Peace Award this year, the US dissident faces arrest if he comes to Norway to collect his prize, said Norwegian politician Michael Tetzschner on Monday.

MP Michael Tetzschner of the Conservative Party believes that if the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden receives the Nobel Peace Prize in December this year, then Norwegian police could and should arrest him if he comes to Norway.

Snowden has been nominated for the Peace Prize amid growing support for him to receive the award this year.

A counterprovocation from Canadian Press:

Canadian warship HMCS Toronto buzzed by Russian fighter jets during NATO military exercise in Black Sea

A Canadian frigate taking part in a NATO exercise in the Black Sea was buzzed by Russian military jets off the southern coast of Ukraine on Sunday.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson calls the incident unnecessarily provocative and says it risks escalating tensions in the region even further at a time when a fragile ceasefire is just taking hold.

The minister says the planes circled HMCS Toronto in a manner that did not pose a threat.

From intelNews, he shoulda been a Bush:

Egypt ex-president charged with spying for Qatar, faces death penalty

Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi has been officially charged with spying for the government of Qatar, in what Egypt’s state prosecutor calls the biggest espionage case in the country’s history.

In the summer of 2012, Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood, became the first democratically elected national leader in Egyptian history, after winning the presidential election with nearly 52 percent of the vote. But he was ousted in a military coup a year later, following widespread protests against him and the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been held in prison ever since.

Now Egypt’s state prosecutor has charged Morsi and eight others, including two former presidential aides, with spying on behalf of the government of Qatar. Egypt’s government accuses Morsi of selling classified documents “with direct bearing on Egypt’s national security” to the intelligence services of Qatar in exchange for $1 million. The documents allegedly included sensitive information on Egyptian military strategy, as well as tactical “positioning and the nature of its armaments”.

After the jump, the latest the Asia and the Game of Zones, including Chinese military budgets reimagined, Japanese sartorial stupidity in China, a Sino/Formosan realignment sought, another alleged Chinese line-crossing and a Japanese response, Heil fellows well met in Tokyo, and more opposition to a U.S. base in Okinawa. . . 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

50 years ago today, politics changed forever


They called it the “Daisy Girl” ad, a brilliantly brutal effort by the campaign of President Lyndon Johnson to derail the campaign of Republican challenger Barry Goldwater.

The ad set off a firestorm of its own, including justifiable claims that the Democrats had engaged in hysterical hyperbole, but it did its job. Back in the pre-cable, pre-Internet days, when viewers watched only three commercial networks and, sometimes, a public television station and an independent local station or two, the ad was seen by a large share of the public, since it ewas aired during the telecast of a sword-and-sandals Biblical epic.

Coming less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, a period of horror when Americans went to bed not sure they wouldn’t be incinerated while they slept in a nuclear apocalypse, the ad indelibly seared into viewers’ brains a link between paleoconservative Goldwater and the horrors of Armageddon.

The irony, of course, that Johnson himself proved the belligerent militarist, ramping up the country’s engagement on the battlefields of Vietnam and setting the stage for the country’s first military defeat.

The ad’s legacy was toxic, transforming political commercials from simple expository declarations into the early prototypes of the Orwellian masterpieces accompanying today’s campaigns.

InSecurityWatch: War, spies, Apple hacks, zones


First, from the Dept. Of Haven’t We Seen this Headline Before, via Reuters:

Obama says key allies ready to join U.S. action in Iraq

Next, guess who might be one of those allies? Via BBC News:

Iran ‘backs US military contacts’ to fight Islamic State

Iran’s Supreme Leader has approved co-operation with the US as part of the fight against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, sources have told BBC Persian.

Ayatollah Khamenei has authorised his top commander to co-ordinate military operations with the US, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, sources in Tehran say. Iran has traditionally opposed US involvement in Iraq, an Iranian ally.

However, Iran’s foreign ministry officially denied it would co-operate with the US against IS.

From the London Daily Mail, and, uh, gee, so why was Osama so hard to find, then?:

‘Isis are using Snowden leaks to evade US intelligence’: Former NSA boss warns terror group are exploiting massive breach of security

  • Chris Inglis, NSA deputy chief during leaks, says IS ‘clearly’ harder to find
  • Says they altered tactics, allowing them to operate away from gaze of U.S.
  • He says Snowden spill went ‘way beyond disclosing privacy concerns’
  • Leaks also cover NSA’s top-secret ‘means and methods’ of hunting enemies

Islamic State extremists have studied and exploited the leaks made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to operate under the radar of U.S. intelligence, a former agency chief has claimed.

Chris Inglis said militants in Iraq and Syria are ‘clearly’ harder to track down since the rogue agent made freely available a wealth of top-secret information about how the U.S. government hunts its enemies online.

And from The Intercept, some of what he was up to:

The U.S. Government’s Secret Plans to Spy for American Corporations

Throughout the last year, the U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage, in an effort to distinguish its own spying from China’s infiltrations of Google, Nortel, and other corporate targets. So critical is this denial to the U.S. government that last August, an NSA spokesperson emailed The Washington Post to say (emphasis in original): “The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

After that categorical statement to the Post, the NSA was caught spying on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras; economic summits; international credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In response, the U.S. modified its denial to acknowledge that it does engage in economic spying, but unlike China, the spying is never done to benefit American corporations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, responded to the Petrobras revelations by claiming: “It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters…. What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

But a secret 2009 report issued by Clapper’s own office explicitly contemplates doing exactly that. The document, the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review—provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—is a fascinating window into the mindset of America’s spies as they identify future threats to the U.S. and lay out the actions the U.S. intelligence community should take in response. It anticipates a series of potential scenarios the U.S. may face in 2025, from a “China/Russia/India/Iran centered bloc [that] challenges U.S. supremacy” to a world in which “identity-based groups supplant nation-states,” and games out how the U.S. intelligence community should operate in those alternative futures—the idea being to assess “the most challenging issues [the U.S.] could face beyond the standard planning cycle.”

From The Week, and along the same lines:

This is why you can’t trust the NSA. Ever.

New documents show the agency missing a massive number of violations. And that’s before it set up a new program with virtually no oversight.

The notion that the National Security Agency could police its own internet dragnet program with minimal oversight from a secret court has long drawn scoffs from observers. Now it appears that skepticism was completely justified, following the release of a bunch of documents on the program earlier this month by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (ODNI), which came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Exhibit A is a comprehensive end-to-end report that the NSA conducted in late summer or early fall of 2009, which focused on the work the agency did in metadata collection and analysis to try and identify people emailing terrorist suspects.

The report described a number of violations that the NSA had cleaned up since the beginning of that year — including using automatic alerts that had not been authorized and giving the FBI and CIA direct access to a database of query results. It concluded the internet dragnet was in pretty good shape. “NSA has taken significant steps designed to eliminate the possibility of any future compliance issues,” the last line of the report read, “and to ensure that mechanisms are in place to detect and respond quickly if any were to occur.”

Motherboard debunks ornamental “reform”:

CISPA’s Clone Will Undermine NSA Reform, Civil Liberties Groups Warn

When Congress comes back from its five week vacation, the Senate will have to decide what to do with the NSA-reforming USA FREEDOM Act and the CISPA clone called CISA. In many ways, the two bills are directly opposing forces.

Passing USA FREEDOM would be a huge step forward in curbing NSA abuses; passing CISA would immediately undo all that progress, according to several dozen civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press Action Fund, Center for Democracy and Technology, and TechFreedom.

“The Senate cannot seriously consider controversial information-sharing legislation such as CISA without first completing the pressing unfinished business of passing meaningful surveillance reform,” the groups wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Reader Mitch McConnell, and senators on the Intelligence, Judiciary, and Homeland Security committees.

From the Guardian, domestic insecurity:

Arab-American activists chased and threatened with beheading in Brooklyn

  • Police allegedly took more than 45 minutes to respond
  • Man charged after NYPD deploys hate crime investigators

A drunken man chased two female Arab-American community organisers in Brooklyn, New York, threatening to behead them and throwing a large metal garbage can at them.

Despite two separate 911 calls, the New York police department took more than 45 minutes to respond. The department sent top hate crime investigators after one of the women, a prominent activist, told her story at an NYPD community relations meeting that happened soon after the incident on Wednesday.

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said she initially found the man leaning against the wall near her social services agency.

More of the same from Salon:

“I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them”: Louisiana cop resigns for racist texts

  • 15-year veteran Michael Elsbury wrote, “I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants”

Glenn Beck was right–the events in Ferguson really have brought out the best in people. Let’s take, for example, a police officer from Baton Rouge who resigned on Thursday after a local news channel reported that he had sent a series of violently racist text messages, including one in which he said he wished his fellow officers would “pull a Ferguson” on a “bunch of monkeys.”

The police officer in question is 15-year veteran of the force Michael Elsbury who resigned after the texts were shown to his superiors. In another text, he wrote, “I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them and take them out. I hate looking at those African monkeys at work… I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants.”

From the Department of Don’t They Hate ISIS Because They Force People to Swear Allegiance to their Religion?, via Al Jazeera America:

Air Force spurns atheist airman for refusing religious oath, group says

  • Serviceman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada alleges he was denied reenlistment for refusing to say ‘so help me God’

An airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, was prohibited from reenlisting in the U.S. military last month for omitting the words “so help me God” from a service oath he was required to recite, and for refusing to sign the oath containing the same words on his enlistment form, according to the American Humanist Association (AHA).

In a letter of complaint sent to the Air Force’s inspector general on Tuesday, Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the AHA’s legal wing, said the soldier – who is an atheist – “was told that his options were to say ‘so help me God’ or to leave the Air Force.’”

The AHA, which describes itself as “advocating values and equality for humanists, atheists, and freethinkers,” characterized the ultimatum as a civil-rights violation and demanded the Air Force correct the matter.

And from Britain’s Western Daily Press, a real security threat to the working class:

Robots help deliver meals for patients at Bristol’s new £430million super Southmead Hospital

This is the incredible fleet of robots helping to provide food for almost 1,000 patients at a new £430 million super hospital.

Southmead Hospital in Bristol has deployed a fleet of 12 automatic guided vehicles to deliver meals to its 950 patients.

The droids, which start work at 10.15 every morning, are capable of opening doors, operating lifts and picking up food without any human assistance. They transfer chilled dishes to kitchens scattered around the hospital, where they are heated and then served to patients.

Another security threat to millions of Americans where secrecy is the name of the game, via Bloomberg News:

Secret Network Connects Harvard Money to Payday Loans

Alex Slusky was under pressure to put the money in his private-equity fund to work.

The San Francisco technology financier had raised $1.2 billion in 2007 to buy and turn around struggling software companies. By 2012, investors including Harvard University were upset that about half the money hadn’t been used, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Three Americans on the Caribbean island of St. Croix presented a solution. They had built a network of payday-lending websites, using corporations set up in Belize and the Virgin Islands that obscured their involvement and circumvented U.S. usury laws, according to four former employees of their company, Cane Bay Partners VI LLLP. The sites Cane Bay runs make millions of dollars a month in small loans to desperate people, charging more than 600 percent interest a year, said the ex-employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

From The Verge:

Competition heats up to sell drones to the average consumer

After jump, Canadian arctic drone tests, militia identity theft, the IRS memory hole expands, iCloud blames celebrities for hacks, hackers crack OSX, retail invites hacks, Chinese hackers loot the country’s rich and a lawsuit embarrasses, Google Glass-detector coming soon, an Indo/Aussie uranium deal, Australia goes postal, Indo/Pakistani tensions, Japan pushes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and takes control over media content, and that sex slave issue just won’t go away. . . Continue reading

InSecurityWatch: Spies, lies, dupes, hacks, zones


First up, a marriage of the First and Fourth Estates via The Intercept:

The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories With Agency Before Publication

A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.

“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” In another, he directly asks the flack: “You wouldn’t put out disinformation on this, would you?”

From the Los Angeles Times, a necessary measure:

Justice Department to investigate Ferguson Police Department

The Justice Department is expected to announce Thursday that it will open a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department in the wake of the killing of an unarmed 18-year-old black man that touched off weeks of unrest.

The new civil rights investigation will be in addition to the federal criminal probe already underway as to whether Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, violated Michael Brown’s civil rights or used excessive force after a confrontation between the men Aug. 9.

The incident began when Wilson told Brown to stop walking in the street, and ended with Brown lying dead there for more than four hours. Some witnesses have said he was shot with his hands up as he tried to surrender. Wilson has reportedly said Brown was rushing at him.

From the London Daily Mail, another cop behaving badly:

Police officer who wrote on Facebook that Ferguson cop ‘did society a favor’ by killing black teen Michael Brown is put on administrative leave

  • Jason Lentz, a 17-year veteran of the Elgin PD in Illinois, posted 11 racially-charged or offensive messages on Facebook this year
  • Above a video showing Ferguson victim Michael Brown, 18, allegedly stealing cigars he wrote: ‘Innocent victim my a***. Did society a favor’
  • He called a black highway patrol captain ‘the enemy within’ and agreed his kids should stay at home for Veterans Day if they’re off for MLK day
  • He has been suspended multiple times before, including for failing to turn up to testify as a witness in a rape trial because he was going on vacation

BBC News covers the despicable:

Amnesty International: Torture still rife in Mexico

Torture is still rife in Mexico and is routinely used to extract confessions, according to a new report by human rights organisation Amnesty International.

The report says that complaints have risen by a staggering 600% over the past 10 years.

The methods used by Mexican police and armed forces include beatings, electric shocks and sexual assaults, it adds.

The government says it has been taking steps to eradicate torture.

From, Channel NewsAsia Singapore, the latest:

Ceasefire hopes rise, NATO slams Russia

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko met with Western leaders at the NATO summit and said he expected a deal would be signed on Friday “for the gradual introduction of the Ukrainian peace plan”.

Ukraine on Thursday (Sep 4) raised hopes of a ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels during a NATO summit, as Britain and the United States urged the international community to stand up to Russia. President Petro Poroshenko met with Western leaders at the summit and said he expected a deal would be signed on Friday “for the gradual introduction of the Ukrainian peace plan”.

Pro-Russian rebel regions also said they were ready to issue a ceasefire order if the Kremlin-backed peace plan is signed.

Even as Poroshenko spoke in Newport in Britain, however, AFP reporters heard explosions on the outskirts of the flashpoint city of Mariupol, where the Ukrainian army has been digging in against a possible rebel attack.

From Deeplinks, spooky collaboration:

Newly Revealed NSA Program ICREACH Extends the NSA’s Reach Even Further

Turns out, the DEA and FBI may know what medical conditions you have, whether you are having an affair, where you were last night, and more—all without any knowing that you have ever broken a law.

That’s because the DEA and FBI, as part of over 1000 analysts at 23 U.S. intelligence agencies, have the ability to peer over the NSA’s shoulder and see much of the NSA’s metadata with ICREACH. Metadata is transactional data about communications, such as numbers dialed, email addresses sent to, and duration of phone calls, and it can be incredibly revealing. ICREACH, exposed by a release of Snowden documents in The Intercept, is a system that enables sharing of metadata by “provid[ing] analysts with the ability to perform a one-stop search of information from a wide variety of separate databases.” It’s the latest in a string of documents that demonstrate how little the intelligence community distinguishes between counter-terrorism and ordinary crime—and just how close to home surveillance may really be.

The documents describe ICREACH as a “one-stop shopping tool for consolidated communications metadata analytic needs.” ICREACH brings together various databases with a single search query, allowing analysts to search literally billions of records. The tool allows sharing of “more than 30 different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, internet chats, and text messages, as well as location information collected from cellphones.” It is intended to include data from Five Eyes partners as well. While the program shares data obtained under Executive Order 12333, it includes data from U.S. persons.

The Associated Press eyes boots on African ground:

US plans major border security program in Nigeria

A top U.S. official for Africa says the United States is preparing to launch a “major” border security program for Nigeria and its neighbors to combat the increasing number and scope of attacks by Islamic extremists.

Thursday’s announcement from assistant secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield comes amid reports that Nigerian Islamic extremists have begun attacking villages in neighboring Cameroon.

Thomas Greenfield told a meeting in Nigeria’s capital of U.S. and Nigerian officials that “the situation on the ground is worsening.”

From BBC News, mystery unraveling?:

Jacob Zuma ‘spy tapes’ given to South Africa’s Helen Zille

South Africa’s opposition leader Helen Zille has been handed the “spy tapes” which she hopes will lead to corruption charges being reinstated against President Jacob Zuma.

The tapes formed the basis of a 2009 decision by prosecutors to drop the charges against Mr Zuma.

Ms Zille won a five-year legal battle to obtain the tapes to assess whether prosecutors had acted correctly.

On to the hacking front, first with Homeland Security News Wire:

Growing cyberthreats lead to growing interest in cybersecurity insurance

The increasing sophistication and scope of cyberattacks on businesses – and the increasing damage such attacks are causing – have led to growing interest in cybersecurity insurance. The industry is urging the government to treat cyberattacks as acts of terrorism which should be covered under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act(TRIA), while also looking into how the Stafford Actcould help companies after a cyberterror attack. At the same time, more private insurers are offering limited cyber-coverage, but many say they would discontinue selling cyber policies if TRIA is not renewed. As the term “cyber-coverage” continues to be defined by large insurers, the insurance product lines continue to change.

Following last week’s news of a cyberattack on JP Morgan, in which hackers stole gigabytes of data from the bank’s network, U.S. regulators are stressing the importance of better cybersecurity measures, while bankers are calling for an improved federally backed cybersecurity insurance plan for the financial industry.

Former DHS chief Janet Napolitano said in her valedictory speech that the country will someday suffer a cyber 9/11 “that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy, and the everyday functioning of our society.” Since then, banks have hired security consultants and invested in top cybersecurity initiatives, but even the most secured institutions are vulnerable to hacking, so banks are requesting the federal government to play a larger role.

Network World finds a flaw:

Hackers exploit critical vulnerability in popular WordPress theme component

Attackers are actively exploiting a critical vulnerability in a WordPress plug-in that’s used by a large number of themes, researchers from two security companies warned Wednesday.

The vulnerability affects versions 4.1.4 and older of Slider Revolution, a commercial WordPress plug-in for creating mobile-friendly content display sliders. The flaw was fixed in Slider Revolution 4.2 released in February, but some themes—collections of files or templates that determine the overall look of a site—still bundle insecure versions of the plug-in.

The vulnerability can be exploited to execute a local file inclusion (LFI) attack that gives hackers access to a WordPress site’s wp-config.php file, researchers from Web security firm Sucuri said in a blog post. This sensitive file contains database access credentials that can be used to compromise the whole site, the researchers said.

From United Press International, curious:

Obamacare website hacked, but nothing taken officials say

Health & Human Service officials on Thursday said hackers accessed healthcare.gov over the summer. No information was taken.

On Thursday, the federal government said hackers managed to access the Obamacare website over the summer.

The Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the heathcare.gov website said the malware, did not steal anyone’s information.

Officials stressed no one’s personal information was ever at risk. HHS spokesman

The Independent turns hacks into art:

Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude photos to be displayed by Los Angeles artist at upcoming exhibit

The recently leaked private images of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, among others, are set to be printed onto life-sized canvases and exhibited at an upcoming event held in Los Angeles.

Cory Allen Contemporary Art (CACA) has announced that the works will be among the new additions to artist XVALA’s “Fear Google” concept.

They are set to be displayed at his upcoming exhibition, named “No Delete”, at the CACA’s space The Showroom in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

From the Guardian, a warning:

Surveillance watchdog warns police over false identities on social media

  • Sir Christopher Rose says investigators have not realised dangers of using Facebook and Twitter to gather intelligence

Police officers and others public authorities who use false identities to disguise their online presence when they use social media to investigate a suspect’s personal lifestyle or associates without authorisation have been warned by the chief surveillance watchdog.

Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, said too many investigators working for government departments and local authorities had yet to realise the dangers, particularly for “collateral intrusion against innocent parties”, in the “inadvertent or inappropriate” use of Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to gather intelligence without proper authorisation.

In his annual report Rose also disclosed that the commissioners had strongly criticised some agencies for running undercover operations in which the legally required “oversight officer” had turned out to be part of the operational team.

From Global Times, also curious:

Eight China journalists, PRs face extortion charges

Eight members of the Chinese media have been detained by police for an alleged scam in which a major business news website and two public relations firms collaborated to extort money from companies in return for favorable coverage on the site.

The suspects are from news website 21cbh.com, a PR firm based in Shanghai and another based in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Office told Xinhua on Thursday.

They include the editor-in-chief of 21cbh.com, who is surnamed Liu, the deputy editor-in-chief, who is surnamed Zhou, 21cbh.com reporters and employees of its marketing department, as well as heads of the two PR firms. Together, they extorted money from dozens of companies since November 2013, said police.

From Sky News, a cranky ally gets punitive:

Fears Britons Missing In Qatar May Be Tortured

  • There are growing concerns human rights investigators Gundev Ghimire and Krishna Upadhyaya, who have disappeared, may be tortured.

The wife of a British man believed to have been detained by Qatari police has called for the government to help her find her husband.

Bandana Ghimire told Sky News she fears he could be tortured.

Her husband Gundev Ghimire and his colleague Krishna Upadhyaya, also a British national, arrived in Qatar on August 27.

They were there on behalf of Norway-based human rights organisation the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) to follow up reports on the state of Nepalese workers in the Gulf state.

After the jump, it’s off to Asia and the latest episodes in the Game of Zones, including Korean/American war plans, a Chinese visit delayed, more island, a Russo/Mongolian gambit, Chinese assertions questioned and an anti-spy push, Japan hints at an easing, and that historical issue that won’t die. . . Continue reading

From Breaking the Set: Gitmo Exclusive Part II


In the conclusion of her two-part look at the oozing sore on the face of Justice that is the black hole of a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Abby Martin steps fully into her role as a disciplined and impassioned journalist.

The very name “Camp Justice” oozes with the malignant hypocrisy of the American imperial regime, a regime headed by a constitutional law scholar elevated to the nation’s highest office at the hands of the Chicago political machine.

She raises all the right questions and comes to the right conclusions.

It’s also fascinating that the government was so worried that a Navy captain [a rank just below admiral and much higher than the identically named ranks in the army and marines] to handle her.

All told, and as a journalist for 49 years, we’d rate it as an excellent job of reporting.

From Breaking the Set:

Gitmo Exclusive Part II: Media Brainwashing, Sham Trials & Closing Gitmo for Good

Program notes:

On this episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin features Part II of her exclusive coverage from Guantanamo Bay Prison in Cuba, starting by going over how difficult it is for the press to cover Gitmo due to extreme military restrictions. Abby then speaks with Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, Spokesperson for Detainee Policy, about the absurd bureaucracy of the Periodic Review Board and why the prison remains open nearly six years after Obama signed an executive order to close down the facility. Several prominent Gitmo defense attorneys and a sociology professor then explain why the military trials of the alleged 9/11 conspirators have become a complete sham. Abby then speaks with another Gitmo defense attorney, James Connell about the extreme secrecy and overclassfication that plagues the prison and harms the attorney-client relationship. BTS wraps up the show with a call to action to close the prison for good and how shutting down the facility could be done in quick and timely manner.