Saturday, February 04, 2012

Anthrax Sent to Pakistan’s PM Begs Question of Whether FBI Investigated Presumed Anthrax Sent to US Pak Embassy in 2001 | emptywheel

Anthrax Sent to Pakistan’s PM Begs Question of Whether FBI Investigated Presumed Anthrax Sent to US Pak Embassy in 2001 | emptywheel

Yesterday’s revelation by Pakistan that a package containing anthrax had been sent to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has both shocked Gilani’s security staff and provoked memories that anthrax was sent to multiple targets in Pakistan in late 2001 while the US was enduring its own deadly anthrax attacks. Thinking on these issues raises the question of why the FBI had in its possession a sample of presumed anthrax sent to the US embassy in Pakistan in late 2001 but we have not seen a comparison of its DNA to the DNA of the anthrax used in the US attacks of 2001.

Although initial reports suggested that the parcel was received at the Prime Minister’s residence about 20 days ago, the consensus now is that the package was received last October. Multiple reports are claiming the package was sent by a “female professor” in Jamshoro, just north of Karachi. So far, only the New York Times has provided a portion of the suspect’s name. I have found a faculty listing for a female associate professor whose name includes the portion printed in the Times, but since her field of work as listed does not overlap at all with the biological and microbiological skills that would be needed to produce anthrax, I will not repeat the name, since there is a distinct possibility her name was chosen randomly.

One of the more detailed reports comes from The News:

The Secretariat sources told The News that Deputy Secretary Abdul Hafiz, in his written complaint said: “The Secretariat received a registered envelop (Registered No 209) from Sindh University, Campus Colony, Jamshoroo, in the name of Prime Minister of Pakistan Yusuf Raza Gilani through the Post Office in the inner CR Section of this Secretariat on October 18, 2011, at 3:20pm. There was also a plastic envelop inside the outer paper envelop, containing some type of powder or chemical. On receipt of the envelop, the security officer of the Secretariat sent the envelop, along with the material, to Dr Shaukat Pervaiz, PCSIR, Islamabad, for its examination and submission of report.

We also learn from the Daily Times that the anthrax may have been weaponized:

A senior police official, on the condition of anonymity, told Daily Times that the packet was received by a security official at the main gate of the secretariat. The security official found that the packet was filled with a suspicious powder and sent it to the PCSIR laboratories for test. “The PCSIR report confirmed that the packet was filled with anthrax, which could also contain silica or other sophisticated additives to make it float more easily in the air,” the police official maintained.

Given that the anthrax was real and possibly even weaponized accounts for the fear shown by Gilani’s security staff:

The security staff members of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday went into a state of shock over the revelation that a parcel received at their boss’s official residence in October last year carried deadly anthrax...

-bth: I'm always impressed by the level of research done on the Emptywheel. So why aren't we hearing more about these events and why isn't the anthrax being matched to link or disprove a connection between the US attacks and those and persist in Pakistan to this day.

Hezbollah's secret war on Syrian rebels – Telegraph Blogs

Hezbollah's secret war on Syrian rebels – Telegraph Blogs

The other night I spoke to Alaa al-Sheikh, the Free Syrian Army’s Khaled Bin Waleed Brigade in Rastan, a city that’s home about 25,000 people and lies on the main Damascus-Aleppo highway in the province of Homs. Over the last several months, Rastan has become the frontline in the war between Syrian rebels and pro-Assad loyalists as well as a kind of de facto headquarters for the FSA. When I asked al-Sheikh about the rebels’ targeting of power lines and water mains in the country, I was surprised at his response. He said that this tactic was not in fact designed to rob the regime of electricity and water but rather to affect Lebanon: retaliation, he said, against Hezbollah’s provocations. “Hezbollah received information that the Iranians who were captured in Homs had been taken to north Syria,” he told me. “So Hezbollah started bombing us there with Katyushas. They fired around 21 rockets from near Al-Hermel in Lebanon, which is close to the Syrian border.”

The Iranians he’s referring to are seven nationals in FSA custody; five of them, the rebels insist, are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) brought in to assist Assad’s Air Force intelligence in sniping. However, Syrian state media adamantly denies the allegation and insists that five Iranian engineers who were on their way to work at the Jandar power plant in Homs on 21 December were kidnapped by “terrorists”. Press TV, the Iranian regime’s propaganda outlet, says two more engineers were taken after they attempted to investigate the whereabouts of their missing colleagues.

Yet last week, James Hider and Nate Wright of the Times reported that Mahmoud Haj Hamad, the head financial auditor at the Syrian Defence Ministry who defected last month, confirmed that the Assad regime had indeed been paying “military consultants” from Iran and Hezbollah out of a US-dollar slush fund financed by Iran. These consultants, Hamad said, now number in the “thousands.”...

-bth: so we have Syria paying Iranian Revolutionary Guards from a slush fund to help with their military crackdown. Then Hezbollah in play and the Syrian rebels striking at infrastructure that might benefit Hezbollah in Lebanon. Kind of amazing how it is all tying together. Oh and the Russians in the mix blocking economic sanctions.

BBC Reporter Interrogated Online By Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

BBC Reporter Interrogated Online By Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

Security officials with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have used the Internet to interrogate an employee of the London-based BBC Persian service, according to a February 2 report on the opposition website "IranGreenVoice."

The report says the sister of a BBC reporter was detained and put in Tehran's Evin prison, where the IRGC is thought to exert considerable control.

IRGC officials then contacted the reporter in London using e-mail information obtained from her detained sister.

They told the BBC staffer that if she talked to them, her sister would be released.

No names were mentioned in the "IranGreenVoice" report, which said the BBC reporter consulted with the head of BBC’s Persian service before she agreed to speak over the Internet with IRGC security officers.

The conversation lasted 40 minutes and took place at her home in London, according to the website.

It said “IRGC officials could see her but she could only hear their voices.”

Following the online interrogation, her sister was released....

-bth: so Iran's Revolutionary Guards are kidnapping relatives of foreign reporters in order gain leverage.

Army probes crime lab workers after critical news reports | McClatchy

Army probes crime lab workers after critical news reports | McClatchy

WASHINGTON — Stung by critical stories about their crime laboratory, officials at Army Criminal Investigation Command recently questioned lab employees for hours and scrutinized personal phone records looking for contacts with reporters.

The inquiry was launched after a McClatchy reporter asked questions late last year about the lab losing evidence. A command spokesman characterized the investigation as looking into violations of privacy law, but the investigation report, which McClatchy obtained, shows that the command was interested primarily in whether employees had provided information that resulted in a story about lab problems.

"This investigation was aimed at rooting out anyone even remotely critical of the lab," charged Peter Lown, an attorney for one of the employees questioned in the probe. "The lab's management doesn't want any more critical stories."

McClatchy has written a dozen stories about the lab since last March, including detailing the misconduct of two former analysts who made serious errors during DNA and firearms testing and who later were found to have falsified and destroyed documents when confronted with the problems...

-bth: so if I read this right the army is more interested in finding and prosecuting those talking to the media than it is about cleaning up the process of incompetence going on in the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

Listening Post - Syria's media blackout - YouTube

Listening Post - Syria's media blackout - YouTube

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors - YouTube

Anthrax parcel sent to PM House in Jan: police | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

Anthrax parcel sent to PM House in Jan: police | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

ISLAMABAD: Police on Wednesday said that they were investigating how and why a parcel containing anthrax was sent to the prime minister’s official residence in the capital Islamabad last month.

It appeared to be the first reported case of anthrax sent to a government office in Pakistan.

“The parcel containing anthrax powder was sent last month, about 20 days ago. After the laboratory test confirmed that the parcel contained anthrax we registered a case against unknown people,” said police officer Hakim Khan.

There was no immediate confirmation from the prime minister’s house, which lies in the heavily secured secretariat area of Islamabad.

The parcel was posted from the Jamshuru district in Sindh.

“We have sent a police team to investigate it and to find the culprits there,” said Khan, a police officer in the secretariat district.

-bth; if memory serves I think the former Pak US ambassador is living on the PMs compound. Also it is curious that its anthrax again. Are we about to face a new cycle of bio attacks?

Afghan soldiers 'co-operating with the Taliban and signing ceasefire deals' - Telegraph

Afghan soldiers 'co-operating with the Taliban and signing ceasefire deals' - Telegraph

... The portrait of a confident, still intact Taliban insurgency was compiled for Nato commanders from material gathered during 27,000 interrogation sessions with more than 4,000 insurgent prisoners held during 2011, as Barack Obama's surge of troops was at its height. It was drawn up by American military officers at Bagram airfield.

The report, called "State of the Taliban", found there had been growing interest over the past 12 months from members of Mr Karzai's government in cooperating with, or even joining their opponents.

It also found increasing reports of "outright coordination, equipment transfers, intelligence sharing or occasionally even the incorporation of Afghan security forces in Taliban operations".

Afghan police and soldiers had in some places formed informal ceasefires or non-aggression pacts with their local insurgent enemies as they prepared for a future after Nato forces. These deals often included pledges from the security forces that they would support the Taliban in the long term, according to the report.

"The Taliban are absolutely confident in their ability to subdue Afghan security forces," it said.

Training the Afghan police and army to take charge of security in Afghanistan is the foundation of Nato's strategy to withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014.

However the report said detainees had claimed the Afghan security forces were selling or giving away the weapons which the West has donated.

A bazaar in Miranshah, capital of North Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal region, was "increasingly inundated with rifles, pistols and heavy weapons which have been sold by Afghan security forces."

"The vehicles and weapons were once only acquired on the battlefield. They are now regularly sold or donated by the Afghan security forces," the report concluded.

Pictures of Taliban fighters driving in Afghan army vehicles or posing with their weapons had become common trophies in the conflict...

-bth: one wonders who leaked this report.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Gallup Presidential Polling by State Approval Rating

Iranian crude oil export destinations

BBC News - Pakistan helping Afghan Taliban - Nato

BBC News - Pakistan helping Afghan Taliban - Nato

... In a damning conclusion, the document says that in the last year there has been unprecedented interest, even from members of the Afghan government, in joining the Taliban cause.

It adds: "Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governance over the Afghan government, usually as a result of government corruption."

The report has evidence that the Taliban are purposely hastening Nato's withdrawal by deliberately reducing their attacks in some areas and then initiating a comprehensive hearts-and-minds campaign.

It says that in areas where Isaf has withdrawn, Taliban influence has increased, often with little or no resistance from government security forces. And in many cases, with the active help of the Afghan police and army.

When foreign soldiers leave, Afghan security forces are expected to take control.

The report says that surrender is far from their collective mindset.

"For the moment, they believe that continuing the fight and expanding Taliban governance are their only viable courses of action," it adds.

According to the report, rifles, pistols and heavy weapons have been sold by Afghan security forces in bazaars in Pakistan.

The report adds that Taliban members "do not receive salaries or other financial incentives for their work", but their operations are funded by the narcotics trade and they frequently take a cut from the trade.

Their main revenue, though, is from donations, and they travel around the country from door to door making no secret of their affliation, it says.

-bth: nothing about this report is new or encouraging.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Probe: Air Force Punished Mortuary Whistleblowers : NPR

Probe: Air Force Punished Mortuary Whistleblowers : NPR: Federal investigators have concluded that Air Force officials at the military mortuary in Dover, Del., illegally punished four civilian workers for blowing the whistle on the mishandling of war remains.

The Office of Special Counsel said in a report released Tuesday that they have recommended to the Air Force that it discipline the three officials who allegedly retaliated against the whistleblowers. The three were not identified by name. It said one is an active-duty military member and the other two are civilians.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in a written statement that he has appointed a two-star general to review the findings and take "appropriate action." Donley said reprisals against whistleblowers are unacceptable....

-bth: we'll see what happens, or doesn't.

Autonomous quadrocopter flies through windows - YouTube

Autonomous quadrocopter flies through windows - YouTube

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pakistan: Report on journalist's killing ignored ISI despite 'strong indications' - Adnkronos CultureAndMedia

Pakistan: Report on journalist's killing ignored ISI despite 'strong indications' - Adnkronos CultureAndMedia

Islamabad, 30 Jan. (AKI) - Pakistan must ''redouble'' its efforts to get to the bottom of a local journalist's murder following a commission's inadequate effort to seriously look into the possible involvement by the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI), according to a statement by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"Despite strong indications of ISI involvement, the commission concluded that the Pakistani state, militant groups including the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and unnamed ‘foreign actors’ could all have had a motive to kill Shahzad on the basis of his writings," HRW Asia Director Brad Adams said on Monday in a statement.

The badly beaten body of Shahzad, who worked as a correspondent for Adnkroknos International and Southeast Asia bureau chief for the Asia Times Online was found in a canal 150 kilometres southwest of Islamabad on 31 May, two days after he disappeared in the capital.

The commission, headed by a Supreme Court justice, presented its report to the prime minister after six months of its formation. Nobody was named as responsible for Shahzad's abduction, torture and murder.

Suspicion over the 40-year-old father-of-three's murder has fallen strongly on ISI, which in an unusual move denied involvement in his death. Days before Shahzad's disappearance he published an article in Asia Times Online alleging links between Al-Qaeda and officials in the Pakistani navy.Over 70 journalists who have been killed in the line of duty in Pakistan since 2000. It is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

“ISI abuses will only stop if it is subject to the rule of law, civilian oversight, and public accountability,” Adams said. “It is the government’s duty to insist on such accountability and the military’s duty to submit to it. The ISI needs to stop acting as a state within a state.”

Iraqi vice president predicts return to sectarian violence -

Iraqi vice president predicts return to sectarian violence -

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DoD Buzz | Report: Army cancels Humvee Recap, places bets on JLTV

DoD Buzz | Report: Army cancels Humvee Recap, places bets on JLTV

Spending millions to rebuild the Army’s aging Humvee fleet apparently stopped making sense up on Capitol Hill.

Defense leaders, especially those in the Marine Corps, had said it was fool hardy to spend slightly less to rebuild the old fleet rather than invest in new trucks that will last longer. However, Congress pushed back pointing out how each service has recently struggled to deliver new vehicles.

AOL Defense reported last night that Congress has finally listened to those pleas from the Pentagon and agreed to cancel the Humvee Recapitalization program in the forthcoming defense budget with those funds transferred over to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.

It took a last minute compromise between the Army and the Marine Corps to save JLTV from Congress’ ever sharpening budget axe. However, an agreement to ease off strict weight requirements sliced $80,000 off the per vehicle cost of the JLTV.

Defense officials intended to replace the entire Humvee fleet with the JLTV. Spiraling costs and missed deadlines caused Army and Marine Corps officials to amend those expectations. Army leaders now want to replace a third of its 150,000-Humvee fleet with the JLTV and Marine generals plan to buy 5,500.

Of course, the JLTV would never have had to compete with the Humvee recap if the program had run smoothly. But thus is life in the defense acquisition world where a program that meets a deadline is the outlier....

-bth: The humvee has been made permanently obsolete by the IED. It still is useful for noncombat situations so much of the US could be supported by the older vehicles. JLTV has been plagued by contract mismanagement and spiraling costs. Its astonishing how bad the Army and Marines are at managing these programs.

Religious parties to stand against restoration of Nato supply – The Express Tribune

Religious parties to stand against restoration of Nato supply – The Express Tribune

MULTAN: Even if the government decides to restore Nato’s supply route, the country’s religious parties plan to stand against the end of nearly two-month long blockade.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hassan said on Sunday that any resolution submitted in parliament favouring restoration of US Nato supply routes would be a step against Pakistan....

Trade: Case of clean-tech theft simmers in Washington ahead of China talks -- 01/27/2012 --

Trade: Case of clean-tech theft simmers in Washington ahead of China talks -- 01/27/2012 --

U.S government trade agencies and members of Congress are quietly weighing in on allegations of corporate espionage involving China's largest wind turbine manufacturer.

Devens, Mass.-based American Superconductor Corp. (AMSC) is accusing China's Sinovel Wind Group, the world's second-largest wind turbine maker, of stealing valuable trade secrets, copying protected software used for controlling turbines and canceling purchase agreements with the U.S. technology company.

Tied up in Beijing courts, the episode has the makings of industrial sabotage if the allegations are true, including that Sinovel had agreed to pay $1.7 million to a 38-year-old former AMSC employee based in Austria to funnel detailed trade secrets to China. It also ties into a political narrative in the United States, where business groups have pressed Washington to address concerns about Chinese piracy that range from intellectual property theft to hacking computers at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce....

-bth: reading the full article you see there is a clear case of industrial espionage going on. Further this was not isolated to AMSC but included solar and wind systems from other companies. We are browbeating our American companies but politicians seem willing to allow this kind of conduct go unchecked because it is China and they are afraid. In the meantime promising technology companies are being decimated without effective legal recourse.

Will Israel Attack Iran? -

Will Israel Attack Iran? -

... Asked if it was possible to stop a determined Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Eitan replied: “No. In the end they’ll get their bomb. The way to fight it is by changing the regime there. This is where we have really failed. We should encourage the opposition groups who turn to us over and over to ask for our help, and instead, we send them away empty-handed.”...

-bth: an article well worth reading in full.

My Faith: What people talk about before they die – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

My Faith: What people talk about before they die – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs


... What I did not understand when I was a student then, and what I would explain to that professor now, is that people talk to the chaplain about their families because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives. That is how we talk about the big spiritual questions of human existence.

We don't live our lives in our heads, in theology and theories. We live our lives in our families: the families we are born into, the families we create, the families we make through the people we choose as friends.

This is where we create our lives, this is where we find meaning, this is where our purpose becomes clear.

Family is where we first experience love and where we first give it. It's probably the first place we've been hurt by someone we love, and hopefully the place we learn that love can overcome even the most painful rejection.

This crucible of love is where we start to ask those big spiritual questions, and ultimately where they end....

We don’t have to use words of theology to talk about God; people who are close to death almost never do. We should learn from those who are dying that the best way to teach our children about God is by loving each other wholly and forgiving each other fully - just as each of us longs to be loved and forgiven by our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kerry Egan.

-bth: a beautiful and well written article on love and family.

Dance of the Spirits: Incredible Real Time Northern Lights from Jan 24 Solar Storm - YouTube

Dance of the Spirits: Incredible Real Time Northern Lights from Jan 24 Solar Storm - YouTube