Saturday, March 16, 2013

Afghan forces thwart unprecedented terror plot in Kabul - Long War Journal

Afghan forces thwart unprecedented terror plot in Kabul - The Long War Journal

Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces scored a major coup on March 12, breaking up a suspected Haqqani Network terror cell that was hours away from detonating a 7,800-kilogram truck bomb against an unspecified military installation in Kabul.

Elite NDS commandos conducted a night raid on March 12 against a suspected Haqqani safe house in the Al Walkhil village in Kabul's 16th District, and killed five suspected militants and captured two others, according to TOLOnews. Among the weapons and ammunition seized by Afghan forces was a large flatbed truck filled with 7,800 kilograms of explosives consisting of potassium chloride, ammonium nitrate, and an unknown substance -- a bomb powerful enough to have wrought destruction within a 1,500-meter radius (nearly one mile), according to NDS spokesman Shafiqullah Taheri.

Several previous high-profile terror attacks in Kabul that used potassium chloride as an explosive precursor have been attributed to the powerful Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda and Taliban affiliate based in Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency. Taheri was quick to blame the Haqqani Network and the Taliban's Quetta Shura for facilitating this week's failed terror plot, although he did not provide additional details to explain the connection...

CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes - LAT

CIA begins sizing up Islamic extremists in Syria for drone strikes - latimes.com

WASHINGTON — The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.

President Obama has not authorized drone missile strikes in Syria, however, and none are under consideration.

The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection on militants in Syria who could pose a terrorist threat, the officials said.

The targeting officers have formed a unit with colleagues who were tracking Al Qaeda operatives and fighters in Iraq. U.S. officials believe that some of these operatives have moved to Syria and joined Islamic militias battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The CIA effort, which involves assembling detailed dossiers on key militants, gives the White House both lethal and nonlethal options if it concludes that Syria’s 2-year-old civil war — which has caused 70,000 deaths, according to United Nations estimates — is creating a haven for terrorists. The intelligence files also could be used to help opposition figures with moderate views prevail over extremists.

The targeting is part of an array of CIA and Pentagon responses and contingency plans as the Syrian bloodletting steadily worsens, threatening regional stability. Other proposals include plans to seize or destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, which are closely monitored by U.S. intelligence, to prevent their misuse.....
-bth: the issue of Syrian chemical stockpiles and their loss to islamic extremists remains an obvious issue of paramount importance. These weapons will not just need to be located, they must be destroyed or seized. Who is going to do that?

Human rights head in Libya has resigned and gone into exile

Christians say they were tortured in Libya - Yahoo! News

... The video showed Bibles and Christian books next to the detainees. It surfaced only few days after authorities announced the arrest of an Egyptian, South Korean, South African and Swede, who had an American passport, for allegedly spreading Christianity. The Libyan police chief behind that case, Abdel-Salam el-Barghathi, said that the two cases are separate.

The story of the Coptic Christian detainees come at the same time that the Libyan parliament has halted its sessions after being attacked by militiamen. The head of the parliament escaped an assassination attempt during last week's attack.

Moreover, two days ago, Hassan al-Amin, the head of the human rights committee of the parliament, fled to London in self-exile after receiving death threats to him and his family.

He told a private-owned Libyan network Al-Assima — which was raided by unidentified gunmen more than a week ago — that he was resigning from parliament. Al-Amin is a longtime opposition figure who has been on the run from Gadhafi's regime for nearly 30 years. His resignation came after speaking against militias and warning of their human rights abuses.

In an audio clip that was widely circulated on social media, al-Amin said he had seen abuses taking place in prisons that are "much worse than those that took place in the days of Gadhafi."

Safe storage needed for weapons - Libya Herald

Safe storage needed for weapons | Libya Herald

A lack of safe storage facilities means that weapons and ammunition in the desert continue to pose a threat to Libya as well as other countries, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has said.

An estimated 440 army bunkers used by the old regime to store explosives, ammunition, rockets and tanks were destroyed during the revolution. Areas around the bunkers were left littered with dangerous debris and, with the bunkers wrecked, there remain very few safe storage facilities for unsecured arms collected since the end of the conflict.

With each bunker costing upwards of $1 million, their destruction has left “a costly gap in the Libyan army’s ability to secure and safely store its considerable reserves of ammunition and rockets,” said UNSMIL.

In the central Jufra region, the desert is strewn with thousands of bombs, mortars, grenades, rockets, millions of rounds of heavy ammunition and other projectiles, said UNSMIL. Although local teams are systematically clearing the weapons, there are few places to store these safely.....

US refuse to transfer high-risk prisoners to Afghan control

US refuse to transfer high-risk prisoners to Afghan control - Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan Online Newspaper

Dispute between Kabul and Washington over the fate of about three dozen militants held by US forces in Afghanistan has disrupted negotiations over a long-term security agreement between the two nations, Washington Post reported.

The prisoners deemed especially dangerous as compared with the more than 3,000 which have already been transferred to Afghan control is said to be the main reason behind United States decision to refuse the turn over of the prisoners.

US officials have denied the hand over of the prisoners unless president Hamid Karzai guarantees they not be released....

 

Syria plans to use chemical arms: Israel intel chief - PaktTrib

Syria plans to use chemical arms: Israel intel chief - thenews.com.pk

HELD AL QUDS: Israel's military intelligence chief on Thursday said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has contingency plans to use chemical weapons as it battles insurgents.

 

Speaking at Israel's annual Herzliya Conference on security and policy, Major General Avi Kohavi said Assad was still in control of his stockpile of chemical weapons, which the Jewish state fears could fall into the hands of militants.

 

"Assad is making advance preparations to use chemical weapons. He did not give the order yet, but is preparing for it," he told delegates, while stressing that the Syrian leader was still in control of Damascus's chemical stockpiles, military hardware and the air force.

 

Addressing the same conference earlier this week, army chief Benny Gantz warned that "terrorist" groups fighting alongside insurgents seeking to bring down the Assad regime were becoming stronger.

 

"The situation in Syria has become exceptionally dangerous. The terrorist organisations are becoming stronger on the ground. Now they are fighting against Assad but in the future they could turn against us," Gantz said.

 

Several radical Islamist groups have joined the two-year uprising against Assad, with Al-Nusra Front being the most prominent.

 

Kohavi also said Assad's collapse would harm his allies, Iran and Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah militant group.

 

When Assad falls, Iran "will lose the ability to transfer weaponry through Syria to Hezbollah," he said.

 

"Iran and Hezbollah are both doing all in their power to assist Assad's regime. They support Assad operationally on the ground, with strategic consultation, intelligence, weapons," the intelligence chief told delegates.

 

"They are establishing a popular army trained by Hezbollah and financed by Iran, currently consisting of 50,000 men, with plans to increase to 100,000,' he said.

 

"Iran and Hezbollah are also preparing for the day after Assad's fall, when they will use this army to protect their assets and interest in Syria." (AFP)

-bth: so what happens to the chemical stockpiles in a post Assad scenario?

 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Federal Judge Finds National Security Letters Unconstitutional, Bans Them -Wired

Federal Judge Finds National Security Letters Unconstitutional, Bans Them | Threat Level | Wired.com

Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop issuing so-called NSLs across the board, in a stunning defeat for the Obama administration’s surveillance practices. She also ordered the government to cease enforcing the gag provision in any other cases. However, she stayed her order for 90 days to give the government a chance to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We are very pleased that the Court recognized the fatal constitutional shortcomings of the NSL statute,” said Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a challenge to NSLs on behalf of an unknown telecom that received an NSL in 2011. “The government’s gags have truncated the public debate on these controversial surveillance tools. Our client looks forward to the day when it can publicly discuss its experience.”

The telecommunications company received the ultra-secret demand letter in 2011 from the FBI seeking information about a customer or customers. The company took the extraordinary and rare step of challenging the underlying authority of the National Security Letter, as well as the legitimacy of the gag order that came with it...

-bth: worth reading in full.

Oregon Company to Sell Drone Defense Technology to Public - US News

Oregon Company to Sell Drone Defense Technology to Public - US News and World Report

Do you want to keep drones out of your backyard?

An Oregon company says that it has developed and will soon start selling technology that disables unmanned aircraft.

The company, called Domestic Drone Countermeasures, was founded in late February because some of its engineers see unmanned aerial vehicles—which are already being flown by law enforcement in some areas and could see wider commercial integration into American airspace by 2015—as unwanted eyes in the sky.

"I was personally concerned and I think there's a lot of other people worried about this," says Timothy Faucett, a lead engineer on the project. "We've already had many inquiries, a lot of people saying 'Hey, I don't want these drones looking at me.'"

Domestic Drones Countermeasures was formed as a spin-off company from Aplus Mobile, which sells rugged computer processors to defense contractors—though the company won't discuss its specific technology because it is still applying for several patents. Faucett says that work has helped inform its anti-drone technology....

...

-bth: in short people don't want drones flying over their backyard.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances - Chicago Trib

U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances - chicagotribune.com

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN.

The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before, helping them look for patterns that could reveal attack plots or criminal schemes....
-bth: so why are we lettting this happen?

U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances - Chicago Trib

U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances - chicagotribune.com

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN.

The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before, helping them look for patterns that could reveal attack plots or criminal schemes....
-bth: so why are we lettting this happen?

U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances - Chicago Trib

U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances - chicagotribune.com

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN.

The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before, helping them look for patterns that could reveal attack plots or criminal schemes....
-bth: so why are we lettting this happen?

Obama Stockpiled $463M in Smallpox Drug in Case of Bio-terror

Obama Spent $463M Buying Drug to Cure Eradicated Virus

Depending on which expert you talk to, the U.S. either got a bargain when it snapped up 2 million doses of a smallpox medicine for use in a possible bio-attack or it got fleeced to the tune of $463 million.

That amounts to some $200 each to treat up to 2 million Americans in the event of a large-scale attack on U.S. soil, The New York Times reports. But smallpox has been eradicated since 1980 with the last of the virus samples believed to be in goverment hands in the U.S. and Russia.

Approved only by the Food and Drug Administration for use in emergencies, the drug called Arestvyr prevents the spread of smallpox by containing the initial infected cells. Arestvyr can be taken over the course of two weeks along with a smallpox vaccine, according to the publication.

But some experts disagree whether the purchase of the drug was needed at all.

It was developed by Siga Technologies, which is controlled by billionaire Ronald O. Perelman....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Drone industry predicts explosive economic boost - WaTimes

Drone industry predicts explosive economic boost - Washington Times

The impact of drones on privacy and national security remain matters of intense debate, but the economic impact, however, is becoming clearer by the day.

Private-sector drones will create more than 70,000 jobs within three years and will pump $82 billion into the U.S. economy by 2025, according to a major new study commissioned by the industry’s leading trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The study assumes that drones are fully integrated into the national airspace by 2015, in line with the current schedule set by Congress....

-bth; I do not believe this study.

Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs & Parrot: AR.Drone with 4G Dongle over 1000 m /...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Syrian tankman gives the first interview about the T-72AV. (English subt...

http://youtu.be/NFF4Gc9Mb5c

Iran blocks use of tool to get around Internet filter

Iran blocks use of tool to get around Internet filter | Reuters

A widespread government Internet filter prevents Iranians from accessing many sites on the official grounds they are offensive or criminal.

Many Iranians evade the filter through use of VPN software, which provides encrypted links directly to private networks based abroad, and can allow a computer to behave as if it is based in another country.

But authorities have now blocked "illegal" VPN access, an Iranian legislator told the Mehr news agency on Sunday. Iranian web users confirmed that VPNs were blocked.

"Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked," said Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, the head of parliament's information and communications technology committee, according to Mehr. "Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used."...

-bth: likely a precursor to elections.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ten years after the invasion, did we win the Iraq war? - Bacevich in WaPo

Ten years after the invasion, did we win the Iraq war? - The Washington Post

... In what has become one of the most momentous stories of the 21st century, the inhabitants of the Islamic world are asserting the prerogative of determining their own destinies. Intent on doing things their way, they are increasingly intolerant of foreign interference. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington sought to revalidate an altogether different prerogative, one pioneered by Britain: an entitlement to meddle.

To reaffirm that entitlement after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States sought to demonstrate its capacity to impose its will on its designated adversaries. The failure of U.S. forces to do that — to win clearly and unambiguously — calls any further exercise of that entitlement into question. More to the point, it suggests that the big story of Muslim self-determination is likely to continue unimpeded, whether Washington approves or not. Sure, American troops captured Baghdad and overthrew Saddam Hussein. So what?...

-bth: as usual Andy's thoughts are precise and far deeper than any you see in Washington.  Worth reading in full.

US and Europe in 'major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb' - WSJ

US and Europe in 'major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb' - Telegraph

... It claimed 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November.

The story confirmed the origins of ex-Yugoslav weapons seen in growing numbers in rebel hands in online videos, as described last month by The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, but suggests far bigger quantities than previously suspected.

The shipments were allegedly paid for by Saudi Arabia at the bidding of the United States, with assistance on supplying the weapons organised through Turkey and Jordan, Syria's neighbours. But the report added that as well as from Croatia, weapons came "from several other European countries including Britain", without specifying if they were British-supplied or British-procured arms.

British military advisers however are known to be operating in countries bordering Syria alongside French and Americans, offering training to rebel leaders and former Syrian army officers. The Americans are also believed to be providing training on securing chemical weapons sites inside Syria....

Iran-North Korea Pact Draws Concern - WSJ

Iran-North Korea Pact Draws Concern - WSJ.com

WASHINGTON—Obama administration officials are raising alarms about a scientific-cooperation pact between North Korea and Iran that officials said could advance the nuclear and missile programs of both countries.

The agreement, reached in September, bears a close resemblance to one North Korea signed with Syria in 2002, U.S. and United Nations officials said, just as Pyongyang began secretly constructing a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in eastern Syria. "They have pretty much the same wording," said Olli Heinonen, a former lead weapons inspector at the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency....

-bth: while I might be convinced of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran, the agreement Iran has with North Korea would contradict the point.

How a billion dollars gets pissed away by Pakistan over supply routes

Pakistan supply routes open, but move gear slowly into Afghanistan – The Express Tribune

...But data from the US Military’s Transportation Command show that only 40 containers of new cargo have moved across Pakistani ground routes since July. At the same time, about 28,000 20-foot containers came through alternate pathways, known as the Northern Distribution Network, into Afghanistan from July 2012 through last month.

General William Fraser, head of Transcom, said the situation was improving. After months of working to clear a backlog of supplies and deal with procedural issues, cargo movement on the Pakistani supply lines has improved and officials are ready to use them more heavily, he said.

“It’s all moving in the right direction,” Fraser told Reuters. “Now we’ve just got to up the rate.”

...

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta estimated the closure of Pakistan’s supply routes cost US taxpayers about $100 million more a month for the use of alternatives – either by air or through the NDN, a series of complicated pathways across Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.

That cost has come down as the size of the US force in Afghanistan has fallen to about 66,000 today from 94,000 when Pakistan closed the routes. But it still costs about $61 million more a month to use the NDN and other alternatives rather than Pakistan, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said.

Fraser said there were several reasons for the slow start-up. They included the need to work through a backlog of cargo; reach agreement on how to re-export equipment that was no longer needed; obtain new rates from contractors; and decide on the process for bringing military cargo out of Afghanistan.

He said that fewer than 2,000 pieces of cargo remained in the backlog left over from the closure. Some of that cargo belonged to military units no longer in Afghanistan, so it will be re-exported, which required developing new procedures....

Mind the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality

Mind the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality | Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability

This report was originally presented at the East Asia Nuclear Security workshop held on November 11, 2011 in Tokyo, Japan. All of the papers and presentations given at the workshop are available here, along with the full agenda, participant list and a workshop photo gallery.

Nautilus invites your contributions to this forum, including any responses to this report.....

-bth: this is an extraordinary report on the North Korean situation and a realistic assessment of its military capability to invade or attack the south.

Afghan leader alleges US, Taliban are colluding

News from The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday accused the Taliban and the U.S. of working in concert to convince Afghans that violence will worsen if most foreign troops leave - an allegation the top American commander in Afghanistan rejected as "categorically false."

Karzai said two suicide bombings that killed 19 people on Saturday - one outside the Afghan Defense Ministry and the other near a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province - show the insurgent group is conducting attacks to demonstrate that international forces will still be needed to keep the peace after their current combat mission ends in 2014.

"The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents," he said during a nationally televised speech about the state of Afghan women.

Karzai is known for making incendiary comments in his public speeches, a tactic that is often attributed to him trying to appeal to Taliban sympathizers or to gain leverage when he feels his international allies are ignoring his country's sovereignty. In previous speeches, he has threatened to join the Taliban and called his NATO allies occupiers who want to plunder Afghanistan's resources....

-bth: pathetic little man