They fear that nerve agents and chemical weapons held by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime could fall into terrorists’ hands if the government collapses entirely.
Senior officers have also held talks on a range of “rogue state” contingency plans to prevent chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from being seized by terrorists, which they fear could also happen if Pakistan or North Korea’s regimes were to collapse.
Iran, which according to one senior British source is “bent on developing nuclear weapons”, is also causing great concern to western governments.
British intelligence believes Syria has amassed an extensive arsenal of WMD including nerve agents such as Sarin – one of the most deadly weapons ever created – and chemical weapons such as mustard gas.
They have so far not been used and are currently considered to be well guarded by the Syrian security forces....
Saturday, February 23, 2013
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saturday that it captured a foreign unmanned aircraft during a military exercise in southern Iran.
Gen. Hamid Sarkheili, a spokesman for the military exercise, said the Guard's electronic warfare unit spotted signals indicating that foreign drones were trying to enter Iranian airspace. Sarkheili said Guard experts took control of one drone's navigation system and brought it down near the city of Sirjan where the military drills began on Saturday.
"While probing signals in the area, we spotted foreign and enemy drones which attempted to enter the area of the war game," the official IRNA news agency quoted the general as saying. "We were able to get one enemy drone to land."
Sarkheili did not say whether the drone was American....
Friday, February 22, 2013
Nearly two years after the start of Syria's popular uprising, the conflict has evolved into a slow-moving, brutal civil war with many players and no clear end in sight. Multiple rebel groups across the country continue to fight President Bashar al-Assad's forces, using any weapons they can get their hands on. While the rebels are using many modern weapons, they've also come up with their own makeshift solutions. In these weapons workshops, anti-aircraft guns are welded to pickup trucks and armor shields are attached to machine guns and cars. Mortar shell nose cones are turned on lathes and explosives are mixed by hand. Homemade grenades are launched by jury-rigged shotguns or giant slingshots in the urban battlefields of Aleppo and Damascus. Gathered here are a few examples of the hand-built munitions of the Syrian rebels. [38 photos]
-bth: see the link for the photos. Well worth examining
... Just days before U.S. officials offered respite from sanctions on gold trade, Iran said it was converting some of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel.
That, say analysts, is one way for Iran to slow the growth in its reserve of material that Western governments fear is a major step towards a nuclear weapons capability, although Tehran insists it is seeking only civilian nuclear energy.
But some see it as a ploy to prolong negotiations.
Diplomats say it shows Iran wants to avoid military confrontation, but the measure is not a "game-changer" because the reactor fuel conversions do not, at present, affect the bulk of Iran's refined uranium. Such conversions can also be reversed, diplomats say, although this is technically complex.
Moreover, while trade embargoes have intensified, Tehran may not be feeling enough pain to make serious concessions now.
"The regime's position oscillates between wanting genuine negotiations and wanting to stall for time," Dina Esfandiary of London's International Institute for Strategic Studies said.
"Although sanctions are hurting.... they're not having enough of an effect to change the leadership's mind on the nuclear issue. They're not hurting enough to be worth the humiliation of giving in to pressure after years of building the nuclear program up as a national feat."
ISLAMABAD - At least half the Afghan Taliban recently freed from Pakistani prisons have rejoined the insurgency, a Pakistani intelligence official says, throwing into question the value of such goodwill gestures that the Afghan government requested to restart a flagging peace process.,,,
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Use devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone. "The Mujahideen have had successful experiments using the Russian-made 'Rascal.'"
SkyGrabber: Is hacking military drones too easy? - CSMonitor.com
Hollywood makes it look as if terrorists need complicated equipment and a criminal super-genius to tap into US military drones. In fact, a $26 computer program would do the trick.
US defense officials admitted to The Wall Street Journal that insurgents in Iraq have used SkyGrabber, a downloadable program, to hack into video feeds from Predators planes. According to unnamed sources cited by the Journal, Iranian-backed groups have intercepted satellite data, allowing them to view, record, and share video relayed by these pilotless vehicles. While the information could be used to spy on military intelligence and troop locations, there's no reason to believe the hackers can affect the Predators nor access anything other than raw video.
The setup requires a PC, satellite dish, satellite modem, and software such as SkyGrabber, which was developed by the Russian firm SkySoftware. Because of Iraq and Afghanistan's rough terrain, military officials cannot assume the Predators will have a clean, line-of-sight connection with the bases that send them orders. To work around the problem, the drones switch to satellite linkups. However, unlike credit card payments and cellphone calls, this military satellite data is not encrypted.
Once the insurgents learned the Predator video was unencrypted, they basically pitched their TV antennas and enjoyed the show. The information was unprotected because of financial and technical inertia delaying network upgrades, the Journal article said, but the Pentagon is now securing all of its feeds in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
This summer, the US uncovered "days and days and hours and hours" of intercepted video on militants' laptops, according to one of the Journal's anonymous sources. "It is part of their kit now."
And a dastardly simple part at that. Secretly tapping into satellite feeds has been a trick played by teenage would-be hackers for some time, although they rarely – if ever – snatched anything as sensitive as these Predator videos. As with many things online, the software falls in a moral gray area. SkySoftware's website says the program "intercepts satellite data (movie, music, pictures) that downloadind [sic.] by other users and saves information in your hard disk. So, you'll get new movie, best music and funny pictures for free."...
The list in full (English):1. It is possible to know the intention and the mission of the drone by using the Russianmade “sky grabber” device to infiltrate the drone’s waves and the frequencies. The device is available in the market for $2,595 and the one who operates it should be a computer know-how.2. Using devices that broadcast frequencies or pack of frequencies to disconnect the contacts and confuse the frequencies used to control the drone. The Mujahideen have had successful experiments using the Russian-made “Racal.”3. Spreading the reflective pieces of glass on a car or on the roof of the building.
4. Placing a group of skilled snipers to hunt the drone, especially the reconnaissance ones because they fly low, about six kilometres or less.
5. Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using the ordinary water-lifting dynamo fitted with a 30-metre copper pole.
6. Jamming of and confusing of electronic communication using old equipment and keeping them 24-hour running because of their strong frequencies and it is possible using simple ideas of deception of equipment to attract the electronic waves devices similar to that used by the Yugoslav army when they used the microwave (oven) in attracting and confusing the Nato missiles fitted with electromagnetic searching devices.
7. Using general confusion methods and not to use permanent headquarters.
8. Discovering the presence of a drone through well-placed reconnaissance networks and to warn all the formations to halt any movement in the area.
9. To hide from being directly or indirectly spotted, especially at night.
10. To hide under thick trees because they are the best cover against the planes.
11. To stay in places unlit by the sun such as the shadows of the buildings or the trees.
12. Maintain complete silence of all wireless contacts.
13. Disembark of vehicles and keep away from them especially when being chased or during combat.
14. To deceive the drone by entering places of multiple entrances and exits.
15. Using underground shelters because the missiles fired by these planes are usually of the fragmented anti-personnel and not anti-buildings type.
16. To avoid gathering in open areas and in urgent cases, use building of multiple doors or exits.
17. Forming anti-spies groups to look for spies and agents.
18. Formation of fake gatherings such as using dolls and statutes to be placed outside false ditches to mislead the enemy.
19. When discovering that a drone is after a car, leave the car immediately and everyone should go in different direction because the planes are unable to get after everyone.
20. Using natural barricades like forests and caves when there is an urgent need for training or gathering.
21. In frequently targeted areas, use smoke as cover by burning tires.
22. As for the leaders or those sought after, they should not use communications equipment because the enemy usually keeps a voice tag through which they can identify the speaking person and then locate him.
For the first time, America’s top-of-the-line F-22 fighters and Britain’s own cutting-edge Typhoon jets have come together for intensive, long-term training in high-tech warfare. If only the planes could talk to each other on equal terms.
The F-22 and the twin-engine, delta-wing Typhoon — Europe’s latest warplane — are stuck with partially incompatible secure communications systems. For all their sophisticated engines, radars and weapons, the American and British pilots are reduced to one-way communication, from the Brits to the Yanks. That is, unless they want to talk via old-fashioned radio, which can be intercepted and triangulated and could betray the planes’ locations. That would undermine the whole purpose of the F-22′s radar-evading stealth design, and could pose a major problem if the Raptor and the Typhoon ever have to go to war together....
Nigeria's State Security Service (SSS) announced the arrest of three members of an Iranian-backed terror cell that was reportedly planning to carry out attacks on US and Israeli interests as well as former Nigerian officials.
A spokesperson for the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said that the cell was led by a Shiite cleric, Abdullahi Mustapha Berende, who was arrested last December. Berende, who had received training in Iran, was aided by Sulaiman Saka, Saheed Adewumi, and Bunyamin Yusuf. Yusuf is still at large, according to the Premium Times.....
...“By removing temperature stability as a limiting factor, troops will now be able to carry sensors with them without worrying about refrigeration and wondering if the sensor will return an accurate reading. According to the Chemical Biological Medical Systems Joint Project Management Office at JPE-CBD, eliminating the need for cold-chain logistics in transport and deployment of sensors is estimated to save DoD in the range of $10 million per year,” Donlon said. “The new stability also means antibodies can be attached to new materials to make potentially more practical sensors to take the place of current beads and strips. Most importantly, by pairing more stable sensors with a huge increase in sensitivity, DARPA is giving troops the confidence to trust the results of what can be literally life-or-death measurements.”
ATP achieved these results by altering the amino acid sequences within the antibody molecules. Rather than creating an additive stabilizing material, ATP performers devised methods to make the altered amino acids an integral part of the structure of the antibody molecule.
“Antibody-based biosensors have been in use for roughly 30 years,” Donlon said. “DARPA used recent advances in understanding of protein structure and analysis to determine new ways to alter amino acids, integrate them into an antibody structure, and do so at a sustainable scale.”
The release notes that DARPA partnered with the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) from the beginning of ATP, to first assist with evaluation of performer research proposals, then later in the program to provide ATP performers with unaltered antibodies, conduct testing on the performers’ altered antibodies, and validate results. To ensure that the production methods for modifying antibodies are scalable and cost effective, performers had to submit one-gram samples for testing. The positive results mean that existing DoD antibody stockpiles can be altered to incorporate the new properties of stability and high affinity.
Program performers for ATP included: Affomix Corp. (Branford, Conn.), purchased by Illumina, Inc. (San Diego, Calif.); AnaptysBio, Inc. (San Diego, Calif.); the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, District of Columbia); StableBody Technologies, LLC (Lemont, Ill.); The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas); and the ECBC (Aberdeen, Md.), which participated as the validation laboratory. AxioMx, Inc. (Branford, Conn.) was created to rapidly generate high-quality recombinant antibodies.
Start asking security experts which powerful Washington institutions have been penetrated by Chinese cyberspies, and this is the usual answer: almost all of them.
The list of those hacked in recent years includes law firms, think tanks, news organizations, human rights groups, contractors, congressional offices, embassies and federal agencies.
The information compromised by such intrusions, security experts say, would be enough to map how power is exercised in Washington to a remarkably nuanced degree. The only question, they say, is whether the Chinese have the analytical resources to sort through the massive troves of data they steal every day.
“The dark secret is there is no such thing as a secure unclassified network,” said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which has been hacked in the past. “Law firms, think tanks, newspapers — if there’s something of interest, you should assume you’ve been penetrated.”...
-bth: worth reading in full.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
...s international sanctions make it increasingly difficult for Iran to get cash for these energy exports, China is likely to find novel ways to provide goods and services in exchange, which will likely be to the detriment of the already crippled non-oil sectors. By threatening to cut off companies that transfer money to Iran's central bank (even those from countries that currently enjoy waivers to the previous oil sanctions) from the US banking system, the United States' February sanctions aim to trap much of Iran's oil revenues in Chinese bank accounts. This, in effect, gives China a double advantage, allowing it to gain premium access to Iran's energy as well as investment opportunities in its non-oil sectors.
"These reserves will provide [China] with more bargaining power, since now the only way the Iranian government could receive its money is to accept barter products in return," said an economist based in Tehran.
These policies have a profound impact on ordinary Iranians. Chinese consumer products have long crammed local storefronts, and Iranian manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete, especially since the plummeting national currency drove up the cost of imported raw materials.
In addition, the Iran-China chamber of commerce last year announced it was receiving member complaints about the types of goods China was sending to Iran, which "usually ... contradicted the ordered goods."
Tehran's roads are thus full of taxi drivers who until recently owned businesses, but went bankrupt because they could no longer afford to pay for imports while competing with cheap Chinese merchandise.
"Unlike with most GCC economies, the craft, small and medium industries play an important role in the Iranian economy, but the flow of cheap Chinese goods, [which are] in some cases low-quality, generated a popular resentment against China and a backlash from merchants and factories that are exposed to significant competition from Chinese goods," UK-based Middle East expert Naser al-Tamimi recently wrote for al-Arabia.
Small business owners are not the only ones losing out. In a country where the state plays a significant role as an employer, the outsourcing of major infrastructure projects to Chinese businesses takes construction and engineering jobs away from the already struggling local labour pool. Over the past two decades of fortifying bilateral ties, Chinese engineers have spearheaded countless infrastructural projects, most prominently the Tehran metro system – a trend both Iranian and Chinese officials have been keen to encourage.
"The new agreement seems to be, no more consumer goods. If we're going to barter, build us motorways, bridges and dams," said the Sino-Iranian trade analyst.
As Iran's inflation and unemployment levels climb, the growing visibility of Chinese workers at public construction sites is thus likely to further foment public resentment. Presently, the massive expansion of Tehran's Sadr expressway – touted as a pre-election achievement of the mayor, Mohammad Qalibaf – may give enough cause for local ire. Easily the most visible infrastructural endeavour in Tehran, the two-level, four-mile project is sponsored by China.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
There is no connection between jihad and terrorism, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said yesterday, adding that suggestions to the contrary come from American neo-cons and Israelis.
“Jihad is the name of fighting for our honor if required but firstly it means fighting against our own self’s limits, according to us,” Davutoğlu said yesterday in Istanbul at the headquarters of the Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), where he attended the conference “Turkey in the light of international developments, 2013.”...
On the outskirts of Shanghai, in a run-down neighborhood dominated by a 12-story white office tower, sits a People’s Liberation Army base for China’s growing corps of cyberwarriors.
The building off Datong Road, surrounded by restaurants, massage parlors and a wine importer, is the headquarters of P.L.A. Unit 61398. A growing body of digital forensic evidence — confirmed by American intelligence officials who say they have tapped into the activity of the army unit for years — leaves little doubt that an overwhelming percentage of the attacks on American corporations, organizations and government agencies originate in and around the white tower.
An unusually detailed 60-page study, to be released Tuesday by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, tracks for the first time individual members of the most sophisticated of the Chinese hacking groups — known to many of its victims in the United States as “Comment Crew” or “Shanghai Group” — to the doorstep of the military unit’s headquarters. The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area....
-bth: this is an excellent NYT article on Chinese cyberwarfare activities worth reading in full..
Monday, February 18, 2013
...The “fiscal cliff” debate (a 9.7 point drop) and the 2011 debt ceiling showdown (15.8) fit neatly into that category of signal events, a remarkable reflection of how what happens — or, more accurately, doesn’t happen — in Washington reverberates around the country. (One remarkable factoid: The drop in consumer confidence during the “fiscal cliff” debate was larger than the one that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.)
The Michigan Index is not alone in showing the drastic impact on confidence that the seemingly endless fiscal fights in Washington are causing. In the summer of 2011 — at the heart of the debt ceiling debate — Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index showed a score of -54. (The lowest possible number is -100, the highest is 100.) At the end of 2012, confidence dipped again in the Gallup measurement — down to -22.
Now, it’s not all doom and gloom. Of late, the Michigan Index has been showing increased public confidence, hitting a three-month high of 76.3 this month. And, the Gallup number reached as high as -8 earlier this month —a five-year high— before dipping back down to -13 last week.
But, a look at the longer trend suggests that the country is in the grips of a broader crisis of confidence that Washington is making worse. Looking all the way back to 2008 when Gallup began testing economic confidence, the organization has never — repeat, never — turned out a positive confidence score in its daily tracking polling. And, as McInturff notes, the country is now in the midst of a historically long run of low confidence. It has been 59 months since the Michigan Index dropped below 65 and it has never been back above 85....
Sunday, February 17, 2013
...In 2005, $25 million of the regime's cash was frozen at Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, which was designated a "primary money laundering concern" by the U.S. Treasury.
That case stands as practically the only public success in seizing funds from the isolated country that is now led by 30-year-old Kim Jong-un, the third of the Kim dynasty to rule.
The $25 million was released after protracted negotiations led by Kim Kye-gwan, the North's long-standing negotiator with the United States, and U.S. envoy Christopher Hill, officials present at the talks said.
Pyongyang has learned from that episode and buried its funds even deeper, said the South Korean official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"The bank accounts are split up a lot," the official said, meaning the money is divided into small amounts so that a freeze on one account would not greatly affect the total.
THE INSURANCE SCAM
Kim Kwang-jin, now living as a defector in South Korea, said the $20 million sent to Kim Jong-il in 2003 came from insurance scams by Pyongyang's Korea National Insurance Corp (KNIC), which exaggerated claims from re-insurers and underwriters for events such as weather damage, ship and aircraft losses....
Unlike oil-exporting Iran, which is heavily sanctioned by the United States and United Nations as well as others, North Korea's puny $50 billion economy produces few goods other than minerals and seafood sold to China. Its trade with China was put by Beijing at $5.7 billion in 2011.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Center estimated in 2005 that North Korea may earn as much as $500 million annually from counterfeiting, and another $100 million to $200 million annually from narcotics trafficking.
In just one known example of its role as a "narco-state", a North Korean ship was raided by the Australian navy in 2003 and found to be carrying $50 million worth of heroin, according to the government in Canberra.
Kim Kwang-jin, who defected in 2003 with his family in Singapore, estimated the Pyongyang "royal court" fund at $4.5 billion, of which $2 billion was inside North Korea, $2 billion overseas and a further $500 million in the underground economy of various countries. He said he derived the estimates from his experience as a senior officer handling funds for North Korea....
Ship inspections have been a feature of the North Korean sanctions regime for a long time. Under a Security Council resolution, U.N. member states can inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, and seize and destroy any goods transported in violation of sanctions imposed for its nuclear tests.
Another area where U.N. sanctions could be strengthened is enforcement, especially in China, diplomats say. U.N. experts who monitor sanctions violations have said Pyongyang regularly flouts the sanctions, sometimes by shipping banned goods such as weapons via China.
"If the Chinese would be willing to inspect half of what goes through Dalian harbor, that would be big," said George Lopez, a former U.N. North Korea sanctions monitor, now at the University of Notre Dame.
China's central bank and foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment as it was the Lunar New Year holiday.
But the source with access to top officials in both countries said China would again support U.N. sanctions, although he declined to comment on what level of sanctions it would be willing to endorse....
-bth: so a few weeks ago S. Korea said Iran moved 1 billion USD using a front. So how is Iran getting money to N. Korea if indeed it is funding N.K's rocket and nuke program?
In his first term, President Obama instructed the Pentagon to pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia. Instead, the U.S. military finds itself drawn into a string of messy wars in another, much poorer part of the world: Africa.
Over the past two years, the Pentagon has become embroiled in conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Mali and central Africa. Meantime, the Air Force is setting up a fourth African drone base, while Navy warships are increasing their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa.
In scope and expense, the U.S. military involvement in Africa still barely registers when compared with its presence in Asia, let alone the Middle East or Afghanistan. On any given day, there are only about 5,000 U.S. troops scattered across all of Africa, while 28,000 are stationed in South Korea alone....
-bth: So the African command is based in Stuttgart? Really?