Saturday, April 21, 2012

USA Today pair hit by smear campaign after Pentagon propaganda story | World news | guardian.co.uk

USA Today pair hit by smear
Two USA Today journalists investigating private security companies engaging in foreign propaganda wars on behalf of the Pentagon appear to have been subjected themselves to a dirty tricks campaign, the newspaper has revealed.

Reporter Tom Vanden Brook and editor Ray Locker became the subject of a sustained internet campaign to discredit their work just days after they began publishing the results of their investigation into a multi-million dollar Pentagon-funded propaganda mission in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the course of the smear campaign, fake websites, Twitter feeds and Facebook accounts were set up under the journalists' names in which they were accused of being backed by the Taliban.

The source of the smear campaign has not been identified, and the Pentagon itself told USA Today that it was unaware of any such activities, which it stressed it would find unacceptable. But the timing of the shady attempts to drag their names into the journalistic mud is certainly suggestive.

The first sign of any strange dealings was on January 7, USA Today said, when a fake website TomVandenBrook.com was created. This was just days after Vanden Brook contacted private contractors used by the Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out "information operations" or "info ops" – propaganda designed to support US war aims....

- bth: Tom Vanden Brook is a pretty good reporter I've been following since he took up the cause of vehicular arm when he joined USA Today.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

VA's Disability Claims Backlog Pushes 900,000 - Bob Brewin, Nextgov.com - NationalJournal.com

VA's Disability Claims Backlog Pushes 900,000 - Bob Brewin, Nextgov.com - NationalJournal.com


The Veterans Affairs Department faces a "staggering" backlog of 897,566 disability claims with more than 65 percent pending for more than 125 days, a problem compounded by an error rate of 16 percent, representatives of veterans' services organizations told lawmakers on the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
The department has seen a 48 percent increase in claims since 2008. Officials expect the backlog will grow to 1.2 million claims this year and another 50,000 will accrue in 2013 as veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars flood the system, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki toldthe Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in March. He vowed to process all claims in fewer than 125 days with a 98 percent accuracy standard by 2015.
Jeffrey Hall, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, an advocacy group, told House lawmakers Wednesday that "while the elimination of the backlog will be a welcome milestone, we must remember that eliminating the backlog is not necessarily the same goal as reforming the claims processing system, nor does it guarantee that veterans are better served."...

-bth: this is a fucking crime against veterans, but politicians aren't going to do anything about it but talk.  To do anything else costs money and vet issues aren't in vogue on capitol hill these days, not when it costs money to resolve.  A fucking crime.

Army denies clemency in Afghan 'thrill kill' case - Boston.com

Army denies clemency in Afghan 'thrill kill' case - Boston.com

SEATTLE—The Army has denied early release for a soldier who tried to blow the whistle on a plot to kill Afghan civilians in 2010, only to later be convicted in the plot himself.
The clemency bid by former Spc. Adam Winfield of Cape Coral, Fla., was denied earlier this month despite the recommendation of a prosecutor who said he deserved credit for initially trying to stop the killings and for his cooperation in testifying against the plot's ringleader, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs of Billings, Mont.
"Certainly, Spc. Winfield does not have completely `clean hands' when it comes to these events," the prosecutor, Maj. Robert C. Stelle, wrote in a memo. "However, it is also true (and well documented) that he attempted to blow the whistle."
Winfield also confronted Gibbs about his conduct, which led to a series of threats being made against him to keep him quiet, the prosecutor said....

-bth: it is really astonishing to me that clemency was not granted to Spc. Winfield.  He was probably the only decent guy in the kill group and the failure of his officers to respond to his information is a huge indictment of the upper chain of command in that unit, not of Winfield.

Reprehensible that ISI maintains ties with Haqqani network: Senator McCain – The Express Tribune

Reprehensible that ISI maintains ties with Haqqani network: Senator McCain – The Express Tribune

WASHINGTON DC: Former US presidential hopeful, Republican Senator John McCain says it is reprehensible that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence maintains a close relationship with the Haqqani Network that is responsible for American deaths.
Addressing a packed hall at the think tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, Senator McCain said that he had sympathy for Pakistan’s military since the Pakistani government is dysfunctional, but said that it remained a “source of never ending frustration” that the ISI had a continuous relationship with the Haqqani Network, when General Kayani is responsible for appointing the head of the ISI.
In response to a question on General Kayani’s recent statement regarding India, the US senator said while he appreciated the statement, the fact remains that the Pakistan Army’s best troops and equipment were on the border with India and not Afghanistan.  He also criticised the Obama Administration’s policy on reconciliation with the Taliban. He added that the US should have a strategic partnership with Afghanistan, saying it would “demonstrate to Pakistan that continued support for Taliban will leave them more isolated and less secure.”...

-bth: I think Sen. McCain is getting closer to the truth of the matter.

Pakistan has no connection with terrorist organisations: Sherry Rehman – The Express Tribune

Pakistan has no connection with terrorist organisations: Sherry Rehman – The Express Tribune


WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman said on Tuesday that Pakistan has no connection with the terrorist organisations that are creating unrest in the region, Express News reported.
Rehman, in an exclusive interview to Express News, said that the US has expressed concerns about its defense, but Pakistan too has “red lines” that should not be crossed.
The ambassador said that Pakistan does not consider Afghanistan a “strategic backyard”.
“Negotiations with the US will be held in the light of the parliament’s recommendations”, said the ambassador, adding, “Pakistan will in no way compromise on its sovereignty”.

-bth: Diplomats must be trained to say such things with a straight face. I'm coming to conclude that the only way to break the supply and drone impasse with Pakistan is to begin publicly point out the terrorist organization and people who live there, plan there attacks there and launch them against India, Afghanistan, the UK and the USA. Being subtle or differential to Pakistan's military and politicians is getting us no where at this point.  The supply routes have become a giant shakedown and so has military aid.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Military technology | Homeland Security News Wire - New sensor to enable military operations in GPS-denied areas

Military technology | Homeland Security News Wire


Many U.S. military systems, such as missiles, rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to provide accurate position, orientation, and time information while in flight; a DARPA project seeks an atomic inertial sensor to measure orientation in GPS-denied environments
Many U.S. military systems, such as missiles, rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to provide accurate position, orientation, and time information while in flight. When GPS is inaccessible, whether as a result of a malfunction or as a consequence of enemy action, information critical for navigation must be gathered using the missile’s on-board sensors.
DARPA says that its Chip-Scale Combinatorial Atomic Navigator (C-SCAN) effort seeks an atomic inertial sensor to measure orientation in GPS-denied environments. Such a sensor would integrate small size, low power consumption, high resolution of motion detection, and a fast start up time into a single package.
“Platforms such as missiles rely on GPS for a variety of information,” explained Andrei Shkel, DARPA program manager. “When GPS is not available gyroscopes provide orientation, accelerometers provide position and oscillators provide timing. The new C-SCAN effort focuses on replacing bulky gyroscopes with a new inertial measurement unit (IMU) that is smaller, less expensive due to foundry fabrication and yields better performance.”
The inertial measurement unit sought by C-SCAN will co-integrate both solid state and atomic inertial sensors into a single microsystem. This new IMU would benefit from devices with dissimilar physics, yet complementary characteristics: short startup times, and long-term, stable performance....

-bth: this will kick ass.  Implications: unhackable GPS on unmanned systems (read Iranian drone scenario of December), means underwater systems (subs and unmanned systems), under ground localization (read coal mines), and low cost autonomous cars and trucks.

With Eye on Past, Karzai Lays Out Vision for an Independent Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

With Eye on Past, Karzai Lays Out Vision for an Independent Afghanistan - NYTimes.com

... These alternating embraces and reproaches of the Taliban may also reflect the conflicting views of his inner circle of advisers, which includes former mujahedeen commanders from northern Afghanistan who have little affection for the Taliban, some supporters of the West and some close to Pakistan, or with ties to former Taliban commanders.

And at root, this is one of Mr. Karzai’s quandaries, whether to embrace the movement of Afghan youth who long for an outward-looking future or to hew to the country’s often warring past.

In that, and on other issues, he has often seemed to want things both ways. Throughout his speech, when it came to the United States he expressed a desire to be free of foreigners telling the government what to do, but also a wish for continued aid.

“On the one hand, we want the foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. On the other, we want to have close relations with the world,” he said.

Near the end of his speech he added that he wanted Americans to save money by sending their troops home, but that out of the money they save, “they should leave some amount for us.” 

-bth: he wants us to leave, leave quickly and leave our wallets

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Border security surviellance immigration | Homeland Security News Wire

Border security surviellance immigration | Homeland Security News Wire

... 
The key finding of the RANd study:
Resource allocation approaches that combine pattern and trend analysis and systematic randomness yield higher interdiction rates than approaches using either strategy alone.
  • Appropriate combinations of pattern and trend analysis and systematic randomness can, in some circumstances, yield interdiction rates that are competitive with “perfect surveillance” (perfect hindsight of historical crossings — both successful and unsuccessful).
  • The benefits of combining pattern analysis and systematic randomness appear particularly strong when the number of available patrols is high relative to the rate of illegal flow but low relative to the size of the border — the circumstances confronted by many OBP stations.
Regardless of strategy, interdiction rates are better explained by relative measures rather than by absolute measures.
  • Relative measures, such as coverage and capacity, are more predictive of interdiction rates than absolute measures, such as the number of patrols, the size of the border, or the number of smugglers.
  • OBP stations group in counterintuitive ways when compared using relative measures, such as coverage and capacity. For example, some northern and southern border stations appear more similar than when they are compared absolutely by the number of patrols, the number of apprehensions, or the length of the border.
The study makes these key recommendations:
  • The Office of Border Patrol (OBP) should catalog all detections of illegal border crossings, even those that do not result in interdiction, and incorporate them into analyses of historical patterns and trends
  • OBP should institute a plan to schedule patrols based on daily pattern and trend analysis and systematic randomness. This plan should include a phase of experimentation using randomized control trials.
  • OBP should develop a management tool to compare its stations based on relative measures, such as coverage and capacity.

Daily Times - EDITORIAL: Bannu jailbreak

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - EDITORIAL: Bannu jailbreak

 In one of the biggest jailbreaks in the country’s history, between 100 and 200 heavily armed Taliban attacked the Bannu jail early morning on Sunday to free Adnan Rashid, an ex-Air Force employee condemned to death by a military court for the 2003 assassination attempt on ex-president General (retd) Musharraf. In the process, they also freed 384 of the 944 prisoners in the jail, of whom a handful returned voluntarily and still fewer were rearrested. Smashing the main gate of the prison open, the terrorists came with a well-coordinated plan that included attacking from all sides of the prison while blocking all the approach roads to cut off reinforcements. While the attack was a classic manoeuvre, the guards inside the prison hardly put up even a token resistance and obeyed the orders of the attackers to stand aside. The Taliban’s intelligence seemed to know exactly where Adnan Rashid was being held. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility. The attackers operated at will for about two hours inside the prison, with nary any sign of reinforcements, although the prison authorities later claimed news of the attack had been relayed almost immediately. The police reinforcements arrived after the attackers had withdrawn, making even their precautionary blockade of routes leading to the prison unnecessary.

... Alarmingly, there are reports in the media that Adnan Rashid, whose appeals against his death sentence have been rejected by the High and Supreme Courts, enjoyed the ‘facility’ of a cell phone in all the prisons he was kept in, and even had access to social networks on the internet, on which he regularly posted messages.....

Australia to withdraw troops from Afghanistan earlier than expected - CNN.com

Australia to withdraw troops from Afghanistan earlier than expected - CNN.com

 CNN) -- Australian troops could begin pulling out from Afghanistan in the coming months and may leave the country almost entirely by the end of next year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia said Tuesday.
That would mean that most of the more than 1,500 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan could leave a year earlier than the government had previously suggested.
"We continue to see steady gains in the fight against the Afghan insurgency," Gillard said in a speech in Canberra, suggesting that the strategy of international forces in the country had led to "security gains over the past year and a half."
She highlighted the progress made by Afghan troops, notably in the southern province of Uruzgan, where most of the Australian forces are concentrated....

- bth: our allies are bailing out of Afghanistan quickly/

Monday, April 16, 2012

Soros warns euro crisis could destroy the EU | Reuters

...  Soros said the crux of the problem was that debt reduction was coming at a bad time for the European economy. "You can grow out of excessive debt, you cannot shrink out of excessive debt."
And he warned that the euro zone fiscal compact, an agreement by 25 EU leaders to prevent another debt crisis and restore confidence, was pushing in the wrong direction because it obliged governments to balance budgets and reduce indebtedness at a time of inadequate demand.
He said that because fiscal stimulus was ruled out, monetary policy remained the only tool available.

Was brazen Pakistan jail break an inside job? | Reuters

Was brazen Pakistan jail break an inside job? | Reuters

...  They moved through the prison quickly facing little resistance until they found Adnan Rasheed, who took part in one of the attempts to kill Musharraf, and then freed him and 383 others.

"We had set one hour as the target time for our mission. This included entering the jail, breaking out our people, getting back into our vehicles and reaching a safe spot," said the commander, who asked not to be named.


Citing preliminary investigations into the prison break, Majeed said 150 guards were supposed to be on duty when the militants struck, but only 36 were.

Even the ones that showed up to work were poorly equipped to deal with t...he onslaught by dozens of militants.


Standing outside the prison, where over 900 were held before the escape, constable Firdous Khan showed a Reuters reporter the only AK-47 assault rifle magazine he had.


"This emptied out pretty quickly. Then I was out," he said.


The Taliban commander, based in North Waziristan -- home to some of the world's most dangerous militants -- said 150 fighters, including foreigners, launched the prison assault after months of training.


"We spent 20 million rupees ($220,000) on this mission," he said.

Police officials said 76 escapees were now back in custody....

Taliban paid 'protection money' by Afghan government - Telegraph

Taliban paid 'protection money' by Afghan government - Telegraph


The money was allegedly paid to the Taliban commanders to protect Kabul and Nato supply convoys.
Mullah Ismail, who until last year was the head of the Taliban's ruling Military Commission and remains one of its most powerful members, was arrested earlier this month along with Mullah Ahad Agha, an insurgent commander in Ismail's Zabul province, and Mullah Ghulam Hassan, a former intelligence minister and commander in Ghazni province.
Their arrests have sent shock waves throughout the Taliban's senior leadership amid militant fears that the corruption which has tainted the Karzai government is now dividing their own ranks.
Leading analysts said their arrests have created a climate of paranoia within the Taliban movement and suspicion that recent talks between representatives of their leader, Mullah Omar, and the United States in Doha may have been influenced by these payments....

-bth: fascinating. 

Drones to be shot down: Imran - thenews.com.pk

Drones to be shot down: Imran - thenews.com.pk


KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has said he would never support any unconstitutional step and that even if an angel came in uniform he would not support him.

In an interview to Geo News programme 'Lekin', Khan said during his premiership if drone strikes were carried out, the unmanned aircrafts would be shot down.

Imran said drone attacks were being carried out with the consent Pakistani government.

Navy grounds Fire Scout helicopter drones after 2 crashes - latimes.com

Navy grounds Fire Scout helicopter drones after 2 crashes - latimes.com
 ..... Operators crash-landed the Fire Scout in the ocean after it was unable to lock onto the Navy warship Simpson's automatic landing system — a requirement for landing aboard a ship at sea.

"After multiple approaches and exhaustive troubleshooting by operators, the aircraft was positioned a safe distance from USS Simpson and the flight was terminated," the Navy said in a statement. "Subsequently, Simpson crew performed a nighttime recovery of the aircraft."

On Friday, another Fire Scout crashed in Afghanistan but could not be recovered. The Navy said the cause of the incident had not been determined.

The Navy said it is conducting a thorough investigation of both incidents.

In all, the Navy has ordered 168 Fire Scouts at a total estimated program cost of $5.6 billion. So far, the Navy has accepted delivery of 16 from Northrop.

The company has about 350 employees working on the program in Rancho Bernardo. The drones are manufactured in Moss Point, Miss.

"Northrop Grumman is working closely with the U.S. Navy to determine the cause of the incidents," Northrop spokesman Warren Comer said in a statement. "We cannot provide further information at this time pending the results of the investigation."
Fire Scout helicopters grounded
The grounding order was first reported by aviation website FlightGlobal.com before the Navy released information on the incidents.

The 32-foot-long Fire Scout can fly as long as eight hours, as fast as 130 mph and as high as 20,000 feet. Although takeoffs and landings are automated, the drone is remotely controlled by a pilot on a warship.

In addition to its battlefield missions, the Fire Scout has been used against piracy in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia. It's also been deployed to spot drug smugglers in Latin America.

In November, the Navy demonstrated that it wanted to expand the drone's capabilities even further when it awarded a $17-million contract to Northrop to arm it with a missile. Final delivery of a weaponized Fire Scout is expected by March 2013......

Sunday, April 15, 2012

DARPA Drones and Robots - YouTube

DARPA Drones and Robots - YouTube

384 prisoners escape after Taliban raid on Pakistan prison - CNN.com

384 prisoners escape after Taliban raid on Pakistan prison - CNN.com


Pakistani security officials gather at the damaged entrance of a prison after an attack by militants in Bannu on April 15, 2012.
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Authorities in northern Pakistan were looking for 384 inmates who escaped from a prison early Sunday morning after hundreds of Taliban militants raided the facility.
The attack took place in the city of Bannu in northwest Pakistan, an area known for a heavy militant presence.
Four prison officials were wounded in the attack, which lasted more than two hours, said Iftikhar Khan, a senior police official in the city.
Of the 944 prisoners the facility held, 384 escaped, officials said.
Among them were 21 high-profile militants, said Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, where Bannu is located....

-bth: a spectacular jail break with only 4 guards hurt.  Kind of like last years Kandahar break of over 700.