Tag Archives: CIA

March 24, 2017

Jihadi terror manuals on how to use a car as a ‘tool of war’ for mass murder can be found in just two minutes on Google and Twitter

  • Fanatics are urged to use cars before going on stabbing rampage in the guides
  • Video revealed after Khalid Masood killed three in car then stabbed a policeman
  • Manuals told jihadists in West to learn from Palestinian terrorists who use cars 
  • News comes as Boris Johnson accused social media sites of inciting terrorism 

Guides to mounting a car terror attack were available on Google and Twitter last night.

The vile manuals were online despite widespread warnings that UK jihadists use them for training.

Fanatics are urged to deploy large vehicles as ‘tools of war’ before going on a stabbing rampage – the template for Wednesday’s atrocity in Westminster. Boris Johnson accused social media websites of inciting terrorism.

The vile manuals were online despite widespread warnings that UK jihadists use them for training

And Google’s YouTube video platform was found to be raking in money from conspiracy theories saying the London outrage was a hoax.

As the maniac behind the attack was unmasked as 52-year-old Khalid Masood:

  •  The security services faced questions because he was known to police and MI5;
  •  Home Secretary Amber Rudd denied failures but admitted: ‘One got through’;
  •  It emerged MPs had raised concerns about the Commons gates Masood waltzed through;
  •  Officials revealed that he was shot dead by a ministerial bodyguard, rather than by armed police;
  •  Islamic State claimed Masood was its ‘soldier’;
  •  Officers made eight arrests around the country;
  •  The death toll rose to five when a 75-year-old man died in hospital last night.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4344338/Jihadi-terror-manuals-use-car-tool-war.html#ixzz4cF84mUUX

EXC: MPs railed against use of armed police at Parliamentary gates because they created a bad ‘atmosphere’ and said anti-terror barriers were ‘UGLY’

  • Interviews with MPs and staff from 2014 reveal resistance to boosting security
  • They complained that security barriers surrounding parliament were ‘ugly’ 
  • Also griped about armed police at main entrances creating bad ‘atmosphere’ 
MPs complained in 2014 that armed police being deployed at the Parliamentary gates because they created a bad 'atmosphere'

MPs complained in 2014 that armed police being deployed at the Parliamentary gates because they created a bad ‘atmosphere’

MPs railed against the armed police being deployed at the Parliamentary gates because they created a bad ‘atmosphere’.

There were also a slew of complaints that security barriers to prevent terrorists ramming cars into the building were ‘ugly’.

The complaints, in response to a survey by the House authorities in 2014, lay bare the extent of resistance among politicians to modernising security on the estate before the bloody terror attack this week.

Armed officers are not currently stationed round the clock at the Carriage Gates, the main entrance that looks out on to Parliament Square.

Khalid Masood marauded through the access point on Wednesday, stabbing Pc Keith Palmer to death. He was shot by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s personal guards after making it around 20 yards on to the estate.

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, a member of the ruling Commons Commission, suggested today that officers manning the gates should always be armed or accompanied more closely by armed colleagues.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4346698/EXC-MPs-complained-armed-police-Parliament-gates.html#ixzz4cIGBINEv

Iran’s Spymaster Claims Pro-Regime Agents Operating in D.C., London, Canada

Claims pro-Iran ‘lobby’ pushing Tehran’s agenda in D.C.
March 23, 2017 3:28 pm

Iran maintains a network of spies and lobbyists who clandestinely push the Islamic regime’s agenda in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, according to the head of Iran’s ministry of intelligence, who touted the pro-Iran network’s ability to spread its ideology to the West.

Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s intelligence minister, in recent remarks independently translated by the Washington Free Beacon, bragged about the Islamic Republic’s ability to operate an unnamed “lobby group” in D.C. that helps to push the regime’s hardline agenda.

Alavi disclosed that Iranians with dual citizenship in the United States, Canada, and England, remain devoted to the “Islamic revolution” and are working to promote this agenda in their adopted homelands.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/irans-spymaster-claims-pro-regime-agents-operating-d-c-london-canada/

2 more ‘significant’ arrests made in investigation into London attack

Authorities said two officers are listed in critical condition. Reuters reported on Friday that the attacker’s birth name was Arian Russell.

According to police, Masood was born in Kent, U.K., and they believe he was most recently living in the West Midlands, which includes the city of Birmingham.

Masood was known to authorities and had a range of previous convictions for assaults, including grievous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons and public order offenses.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the rampage, saying Masood was “an Islamic State soldier” who “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of the coalition.”

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/24/2-more-significant-arrests-made-in-investigation-into-london-attack.html

#DarkSeaSkies: CIA’s tool to hack MacBook Air in under 29 seconds exposed

Amidst WikiLeaks’ revelations about the CIA’s capabilities to hack into Apple products is DarkSeaSkies – a tool used to monitor and control MacBook Air that’s physically installed by a CIA agent or asset in “less than 29 seconds.”

DarkSeaSkies is a tool that runs in the background of a MacBook Air to allow the CIA command and control laptops. It is delivered via “supply chain intercept or a gift to the target.”

It’s loaded onto a MacBook via booting through a thumb drive. The CIA’s user document explains: “It is assumed that an operator or asset has one-time physical access to the target system and can boot the target system to an external flash drive.”

A 2009 “user requirements” document on DarkSeaSkies explains it was created to allow the CIA to access a MacBook Air.

The CIA’s COG [Computer Operations Group] had a “time-sensitive operational need” to install the Nightskies tool onto a MacBook Air, as the CIA had an “opportunity to gift a MacBook Air to a target that will be implanted with this tool.” It’s unknown who this target was.

https://www.rt.com/viral/382095-darkseaskies-cia-mackbook-darkmatter/

Swiss open probe into spying in Switzerland’s Turkish community

Switzerland has opened a criminal probe into possible spying involving Switzerland’s Turkish community, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

“The Office of the Attorney General has been made aware of concrete suspicion that political espionage has likely been conducted involving the Turkish community in Switzerland,” the agency said in a statement, giving no details about the probe launched on March 16.

The Swiss foreign minister told his Turkish counterpart on Thursday that Switzerland would “rigorously investigate” any illegal spying by Ankara on expatriate Turks before an April 16 referendum that could expand Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-swiss-turkey-espionage-idUSKBN16V1GD?il=0

In Venezuela’s Toxic Brew, Failed Narco-State Meets Iran-Backed Terrorism

In Venezuela’s Toxic Brew, Failed Narco-State Meets Iran-Backed Terrorism

As if the political and economic chaos wracking Venezuela wasn’t worrying enough, a couple of recent stories underscore the potential national security threat brewing there. First, last month’s designation of Venezuela’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, as a drug kingpin by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Second, a CNN investigative report revealing that Venezuela’s embassy in Iraq was allegedly selling Venezuelan passports and identity documents to Middle Eastern nationals — raising the disturbing prospect that Caracas is facilitating the entry of Islamist militants to Latin America. Indeed, the CNN report echoed revelations from 2013 that the Venezuelan embassy in Syria was issuing passports to terrorists under the direction of Ghazi Atef Nassereddine, a Treasury-sanctioned, FBI-wanted Venezuelan diplomat who happens to be a key Hezbollah operative. Put all this together and what do you get? A rabidly anti-American failed state that appears to be incubating the convergence of narco-trafficking and jihadism in America’s own backyard.

Venezuela’s links to the drug trade are deep and well documented. Collusion with the cartels reaches the highest levels of the state. Two nephews of President Nicolás Maduro were arrested in Haiti and convicted on drug trafficking charges by a federal jury in Manhattan last November. General Néstor Luis Reverol Torres — Venezuela’s current minister of interior and justice, and former head of its national anti-narcotics agency — was indicted in the United States last August on cocaine trafficking charges, along with a former captain in Venezuela’s National Guard. The list of officials implicated in narco-trafficking also includes a former minister of interior and justice, two senior intelligence officers who later became governors, and now Vice President El Aissami

In Venezuela’s Toxic Brew, Failed Narco-State Meets Iran-Backed Terrorism

Venezuela expresses ‘desire’ to reestablish relations with Israel

8 years after Caracas expelled Israeli envoy, chief rabbi says he pitched a ‘period of courtship,’ consular relations before full ties

[Editor’s Note: Venezuela since Hugo Chavez and including Maduro has been anti semitic and anti-Israel in the extreme.  There are only 20,000 or fewer Jews in Venezuela, and many are leaving because of pressure from the regime. This initiative appears to indicate the extreme desperation of the current government.]

Venezuela’s foreign minister expressed to his country’s chief rabbi “the desire to establish full relations with the State of Israel” eight years after the South American nation expelled its Israeli ambassador.

“We suggested to start with a period of courtship, which means a beginning through consular relations, so that later it will become a marriage, which would be Israel’s own embassy again in Venezuela, as we have always had here,” Venezuela’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Isaac Cohen, told AJN News.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez spoke of the country’s commitment to re-establish ties during a meeting last Friday with several Jewish leaders, including Cohen and Elias Farache, president of the Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela, the umbrella Jewish organization.

Cohen said that he has been in touch with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“I am an Orthodox and Zionist rabbi, and for me it is Jewish pride to have the flag of the State of Israel hoisted here in Venezuela, as in any country where there is a Jewish community. That gives us peace and tranquility, it’s fundamental,” the rabbi said.

Last month, President Nicolas Maduro welcomed a Jewish delegation including Cohen and Farache at the governmental palace to strengthen cooperation that over the years has faced roadblocks.

“A good day of dialogue for peace. Boosting the co-existence and the dialog of civilizations, of religions to consolidate our nation,” the far-leftist leader tweeted after the meeting.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/venezuela-expresses-desire-to-reestablish-relations-with-israel/

 

Imam calling for Jews to be killed in sermon at Montreal mosque draws police complaint

Larger Muslim community wants apology from mosque and wonders why controversial imam was invited to preach

By Brennan Neill, Stephen Smith, CBC News

The controversial imam is Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr who was the invited guest of a Saint-Michel mosque.

The controversial imam is Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr who was the invited guest of a Saint-Michel mosque. (YouTube)

A Montreal mosque is facing a police complaint and rebukes from the larger Muslim community after a video of an imam delivering a sermon in which he asks for Jews to be killed surfaced online.

The sermon took place at the Dar Al-Arqam Mosque in the city’s Saint-Michel neighbourhood on Dec. 23, 2016.

The video was posted to the mosque’s YouTube channel three days later. The imam in the video is Jordanian cleric Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr — he was reportedly an invited guest of the mosque.

In the video, the imam recites in Arabic the verse: “O Muslim, O servant of Allah, O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

CBC independently verified the speech and its translation.

The controversial verse comes from a religious text known as a hadith, which interprets the words and actions by the Prophet Muhammad.

The hadith in question deals with end times and tells how stones and trees will ask Muslims to come and kill Jews hiding behind them.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/imam-sermon-montreal-mosque-1.4037397

 

China’s ZTE Pleads Guilty to Illegally Shipping U.S. Technology to Iran.

Mar 22, 2017

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE on Wednesday pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in Texas for illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran.

The guilty plea was part of an agreement the company reached earlier this month with U.S. authorities that also called for nearly $900 million in fines and other penalties.

The company admitted to three charges: conspiring to export American-made items to Iran without a license from the U.S. government, obstructing justice, and making a material false statement.

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A five-year investigation had found ZTE (ZTCOY, +1.86%) conspired to evade U.S. embargoes by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

ZTE, which devised elaborate schemes to hide the illegal activity, agreed to the guilty plea after the U.S. Commerce Department took actions that threatened to cut off the gear maker’s global supply chain.

http://fortune.com/2017/03/22/zte-guilty-shipping-us-technology-iran/

Russia, India in Talks on Creating New Models of BrahMos Missiles – Putin’s Aide

Russia and India are in talks on creating new models of missiles at the BrahMos Aerospace joint enterprise, Russian Presidential Aide for Military-Technical Cooperation Vladimir Kozhin said Thursday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — India has set a target of $2 billion defense exports, a six-fold increase from current exports, by 2019. In order to give impetus to exports, the Narendra Modi government has allowed government-owned defense companies to earmark 10 per cent of their production for exports. “The biggest challenge in boosting defense exports from India is the limited range of exportable products, limited overseas markets and predominance of defense manufacturers who have been in the business far longer than India,” Cowshish added.

“Today, Indian partners propose to develop, deepen this cooperation, make new models of the missile, these talks are underway,” Kozhin said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television channel.

A hypersonic version of the BrahMos cruise missile, capable of flying at up to 5,000 kilometers per hour, is expected to be created by 2020.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201703231051898499-russia-india-brahmos/

France’s Marine Le Pen urges end to Russia sanctions

France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has called for the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia, during a visit to Moscow.

The National Front (FN) leader called for closer French-Russian ties at a meeting in Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma.

She told its speaker sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea were counterproductive, Interfax reported.

Ms Le Pen has also met President Vladimir Putin.

He reportedly told her that Russia had no intention of interfering in the election, but had the right to meet any French politicians it wanted.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39375969

Terror suspect ‘drives car full of liquid gas, knives and rifles at high speed’ into Antwerp shopping crowds

Terrified pedestrians had to jump out of the way as the car entered the pedestrianised street just a day after the London terror attack

A suspected terrorist has been arrested in Belgium after he allegedly tried to drive a car into shoppers on a pedestrianised street – less than 24 hours after the attack in London.

The vehicle was reportedly full of liquid gas, knives and rifles.

Terrified pedestrians had to jump out of the way as the car entered the De Meir shopping street in Antwerp at high speed on Thursday morning.

The suspected driver, who was wearing camouflage, was later arrested by police, local media reported.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/antwerp-belgium-car-attack-london-10083953

U.S. Senate to vote on Montenegro’s NATO membership

The U.S. Senate will vote next week on the ratification of Montenegro as the newest member of the NATO alliance, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday, after the Trump administration urged lawmakers to take up the long-delayed matter.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had written to the leaders of the Senate to say Montenegro’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was “strongly in the interests of the United States.”

All 28 of NATO’s members must ratify Montenegro’s accession before it can formally join the alliance. The vote in the U.S. Senate was held up for months when at least two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Mike Lee, blocked a quick vote.

The Senate’s Republican leadership had not scheduled a more time-consuming roll call vote until Thursday. McConnell announced in the Senate that there would be a procedural vote on Monday evening, which should clear the way for a final ratification vote later in the week.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nato-montenegro-idUSKBN16U33K

Moldovan PM Pavel Filip : NATO liaison office will open in Chisinau this July

1703241027561490270672original_8.jpg

Moldovan PM Pavel Filip said on Thursday at the end of the joint Romania – Moldova government meeting in Piatra Neamt that a NATO liaison office will open in Chisinau this July. Premier Pavel Filip also reaffirmed support for the participation of the Moldovan army in NATO joint exercises carried out outside country borders. 

“I said that the Republic of Moldova is a parliamentary country and the important decisions are taken by the government and Parliament. At the same time, we have the institution of the President who is also the commander-in-chief. We were faced with a less pleasant situation when the national army was unable to participate in the military exercises organized in Romania, under the NATO aegis. You are perfectly aware of President Igor Dodon’s stance and his love towards NATO. We managed to sign an agreement with NATO and a NATO liaison office will open in Chisinau in July. Back then we had discussions with the President of the country and explained to him that most of the national forces’ plan of activities related to training and exercises – that is about 80 percent – will take place outside the territory of the Republic of Moldova with the support of our NATO partners. The further refuse to participate in these exercises would mean the weakening of the national army, and it makes no logic when a commander-in-chief is complacent with the weakening of the National Forces. I believe this was the first and last time when this confusion occurred and that in the future the National Army of Moldova will participate in all applications. Even more than that, we should thank for this support with the training and exercises the Moldovan army participates in,” said Prime Minister Pavel Filip. 

http://actmedia.eu/daily/moldovan-pm-pavel-filip-nato-liaison-office-will-open-in-chisinau-this-july/68714

Pentagon worried about Chinese investment in US startups: report

The Pentagon is worried about new American technology firms turning to Chinese companies for investment on potential military applications, The New York Times reported.

Chinese firms are sending money to U.S. startups, include rocket engine manufacturers, companies that design sensors for autonomous naval ships and printers that make flexible screens that could be used in fighter jets. Many of the Chinese firms making the investments are owned by state-owned companies or have connections to Chinese officials, according to the Times.

Department of Defense (DOD) officials worry about the investments because they have found that China is encouraging companies with close government ties to invest in U.S. startups specializing in technology that could advance China’s military and its economy, according to a new DOD special report.

The Pentagon sent the report — commissioned before President Trump took office — to senior administration officials this week.

Details on the size of the deals are not available, as startups and their investors are not required to disclose them.

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/325519-pentagon-worried-about-chinese-investment-in-us-startups-report

Cyber war: Defense firms face battle to guard secrets

Thousands of defense contractors face a Pentagon directive to boost cyber security defenses by the end of the year, but many will likely won’t have all the safeguards in place, a cyber expert says.

“We don’t anticipate many companies being close to being compliant by the end of the year,” said Timothy Birt, Riverside Research information technology security administrator in Beavercreek.

Hackers target secret data on weapon systems, classified research on leap-ahead technology and personal information on top scientists and others with critical jobs.

“The interest in that personal data is to actually use it against employees of clear defense contractors to blackmail them or just coerce them into giving up information that they may not otherwise want to do,” Birt said.

 

Some of the prizes adversaries have pilfered via cyber espionage have loomed large: Congressional leaders have pointed out the close resemblance between the Chinese J-31 and the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the target of a cyber hack.

The Defense Science Board detailed other weapon systems cyber spies have stolen designs and data on span the F/A-18 fighter jet; the V-22 vertical take-off and landing aircraft; the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship and the Black Hawk helicopter, The Washington Post has reported.

“Cyber attacks have become the preferred method of conducting espionage, because virtually every U.S. secret is on a network somewhere.,” said Loren B. Thompson, senior defense analyst and a defense industry consultant with the Virginia-headquartered Lexington Institute. “If enemies can gain access to those networks, they can avoid the difficulty of planting agents in organizations — a drawn out and dangerous process.

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/cyber-war-defense-firms-face-battle-guard-secrets/q5nqjUomGdjXeI5JQV1ceL/

 

 

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March 16, 2017

Don’t Fight Saudi Arabia’s War

It would be a mistake to get more involved in the Yemeni conflict that poses no risk to national security.

By Daniel DePetris | Contributor

March 15, 2017, at 1:45 p.m.

The civil war in Yemen has created one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters. According to United Nations estimates, more than two-thirds of Yemen’s entire population need some kind of assistance. Seven million people are hungry, 10,000 have been killed in the war and the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator recently reported to the Security Council “the Yemeni people now face the spectre of famine.”

While all parties in the war have violated international law during hostilities, most of the misery Yemenis have forcibly endured over the past two years were perpetrated by Saudi Arabia.

Most important, the U.S. has no vital national security interests at risk in this conflict.

Why, then, is the United States reportedly preparing to assist the Saudis to an even greater extent than when the conflict began?

The State Department recently signed off on a $350 million package of smart bombs to the Saudi-led military coalition currently combating the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. And in the event one thought this was an isolated sale to merely generate business, Foreign Policy magazine reported just last month that the Trump administration is searching for ways to escalate America’s part in the civil war “[t]o counter Iran’s proxies in Yemen.” It continues, “the administration is considering ramping up drone strikes, deploying more military advisors and carrying out more commando raids.”

This would be a mistake with potentially huge ramifications.

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/world-report/articles/2017-03-15/the-us-shouldnt-fight-saudi-arabias-proxy-war-with-iran-in-yemen

[Editor’s Note: This is an Iranian news source.]

This photo provided by the media bureau of the Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows the site where a Saudi helicopter was brought down in Hudaydah province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.
This photo provided by the media bureau of the Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows the site where a Saudi helicopter was brought down in Hudaydah province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.

Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees have shot down an Apache helicopter operated by Saudi Arabia in the western province of Hudaydah, a report says.

The chopper was brought down in Hudaydah’s Bayt al-Faqih district on Thursday, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

On January 25, the Yemeni forces shot down another Apache helicopter belonging to the so-called Saudi-led coalition in Dhubab neighborhood of Yemen’s Ta’izz province.

Ten Saudi soldiers slain

Separately on Thursday, al-Masirah reported that a Saudi trooper had been killed in the al-Dukhan military base in the kingdom’s southwestern Jizan region.

Nine other Saudi soldiers lost their lives in several places across Saudi Arabia’s southern region, including Jizan’s al-Dafinah village.

According to later reports, one of the slain soldiers came form the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/16/514582/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Hudaydah

 

Al Houthis interception of relief ships causes famine in Yemen, government says

Al Houthis abducting aid workers and stealing relief goods, minister says

Image Credit: AP
A World Food Programme ship is docked in Aden. Hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to Al Houthi-held areas have been seized by the militia and the goods sold on the black market, Yemen’s government said.
Saeed Al Batati, Correspondent

Al Mukalla: The internationally supported Yemeni government has said Al Houthi rebels have intercepted 63 ships and 223 convoys carrying humanitarian aid to areas under their control since ejecting President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from Sana’a in early 2015.

In a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency on Friday, Abdul Rageeb Fateh, the minister of local administration and head of supreme relief committee, said rebels seize relief ships immediately after docking at Hodeida and Saleef seaports and supply goods to their fighters battling government forces across Yemen.

Fateh also said hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to rebel-held territories have also been seized by Al Houthis and goods sold in the black market.

The minister accused Al Houthis of abducting 30 aid workers from areas under their control, including several Norwegian Refugee Council staff, in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. He said Al Houthi supporters in Taiz’s Khader district abducted seven aid workers. He said harassment of aid workers and interception of humanitarian convoys by Al Houthis is causing famine in areas under their control. He said humanitarian situation would deteriorate if rebels continued confiscating aid convoys.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/al-houthis-interception-of-relief-ships-causes-famine-in-yemen-government-says-1.1992019

Saudi-led coalition’s port op would cut off Yemen from food & aid supplies, Russia warns

The coalition’s “plans to storm Yemen’s biggest port of Hudaydah give rise to serious concerns,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement published on the ministry’s official website.

She added that battles in this area “would not only inevitably lead to a mass exodus of the [local] population but would also de facto cut the [Yemeni] capital of Sanaa from… food and humanitarian aid supplies.

Zakharova called the humanitarian situation in Yemen “catastrophic,” citing the UN who earlier said that the Yemeni people “face the specter of famine” while their country suffers from “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

https://www.rt.com/news/380524-russia-yemen-saudi-op/

One of Libya’s Rival Governments Asks Russia for Military Assistance

March 15, 2017 6:00 PM

A member of Libyan security forces gestures after armed groups aligned with a U.N.-backed government took over a compound occupied by a self-declared rival prime minister in heavy fighting, in Tripoli, Libya, March 15, 2017.

A member of Libyan security forces gestures after armed groups aligned with a U.N.-backed government took over a compound occupied by a self-declared rival prime minister in heavy fighting, in Tripoli, Libya, March 15, 2017.

An interview in Russian state media Tuesday indicates that one of Libya’s rival governments is looking increasingly to Moscow as a patron, a move that’s concerning U.S. military commanders in the region.

Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), told RIA Novosti, a Kremlin-controlled news agency, that he’s asked Russia to help train Libyan National Army fighters led by General Khalifa Haftar and has invited Russian lawmakers to visit eastern Libya.

“Most of our officers were trained in Russia and many speak Russian, and they know how to use Russian equipment,” Saleh is reported as saying. He promised Libya will pay $4 billion in Gadhafi-era military debt owed to Russia and added the Kremlin has promised to help “in the fight against terrorism.”

http://www.voanews.com/a/libya-rival-government-asks-russia-for-military-assistance/3767870.html

Moldova sees Russian plot to derail money-laundering probe

By Matthias Williams | CHISINAU

Two months ago, Moldova’s Deputy General Prosecutor Iurie Garaba traveled to Moscow with an invitation to attend an official function for Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Day.

The visit didn’t go as planned.

Garaba was stopped by border guards at Moscow’s airport and taken in for questioning. He said one guard rifled through his passport for 15-20 minutes while another asked what he was doing in Russia – despite his official invitation and a document naming him as the head of the Moldovan delegation.

“I was asked questions that have absolutely nothing to do with border document checks. For example, ‘How do I pronounce my last name?’, or ‘How to write it correctly?’, Garaba told Reuters by telephone.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm his version of events.

But some Moldovan officials say the incident is part of a campaign by members of Russia’s security apparatus to humiliate officials from the ex-Soviet state as they travel to or through Russia.

The primary aim, four top Moldovan officials including Garaba’s boss Eduard Harunjen told Reuters, is to derail a Moldovan probe into a Russian-led money laundering operation that funneled $22.3 billion of Russian money through the Moldovan financial system between 2011-2014.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-moldova-russia-insight-idUSKBN16M1QQ

Russian Bribe Jumps 75 Percent, Anti-Corruption Tsar Tells Newspaper

MOSCOW — Graft is a booming business in Russia, where the average bribe has grown by 75 percent year-on-year, according to the country’s anti-corruption tsar.

Greasing the palm of a Russian official cost 328,000 rubles ($5,600) on average in 2016, leading business daily Kommersant quoted Lt. Gen. Andrei Kurnosenko as saying on Thursday.

“But often the bribes are much higher,” the policeman said, according to the paper.

The total amount of money spent on bribes was 298 billion rubles ($5.1 billion) in 2016, Kurnosenko said. But this is only the corruption uncovered by law enforcement agencies, which opened 69,000 cases involving graft and fraud last year, he added.

Kurnosenko did not explain the reasons for the increase. The ruble has lost half its value against the dollar since 2014 in the wake of international sanctions imposed as punishment over Russian meddling in Ukraine and plummeting oil prices.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russian-bribe-jumps-75-percent-anti-corruption-tsar-tells-newspaper-n734246

Iran behind Yemeni rebels’ explosive boats

– – Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels working to take power in Yemen are using a new weapon that is raising fears of seaborne attacks on both military and commercial shipping in the region.

The weapon is an Iranian-designed remotely piloted small boat filled with explosives, a defense official told Inside the Ring.

The exact number of the explosive drone boats is not known, but the rebels are believed to have enough to threaten ships that pass through the strategic sea lanes off the Yemeni coast. The Navy has intelligence photos of the deadly boats but declined a request to release them. The boats were first detected after one was used in an attack Jan. 30 on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea.

Iran is backing Houthi rebels as part of a strategy of seeking to encircle its rival, Saudi Arabia, and ultimately to take control of the peninsula.

One strategic objective of the Iranians is to control the strategic Bab el-Mandeb or Mandeb Strait on the southern Red Sea that is a major shipping passage.

Iran already has a major influence in Iraq and in the past has threatened to shut down shipping in the Persian Gulf by targeting traffic passing through the Hormuz Strait.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/15/inside-the-ring-iran-behind-yemeni-rebels-explosiv/

Pentagon Deploys B-52 Bombers, 400 Airmen for Iraq, Syria Air Campaign

© AFP 2017/ Paul CROCK

The Pentagon has sent to Iraq and Syria more than 400 airmen along with B-52H Stratofortresse jets for day-to-day combat operations in a first event of a kind in over twelve years.

WASHIGTON (Sputnik) — B-52 bombers at Minot Air Force Base in the US State of North Dakota have been deployed, along with more than 400 airmen, to the air campaign in Syria and Iraq against the Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), the Department of Defense stated in a press release on Wednesday.

“The 23rd Bomb Squadron sent a number of B-52H Stratofortresses to take over day-to-day operations, which will be the first time in 12 years aircraft from the base have deployed in support of combat operations,” the release stated.

The B-52 is a subsonic long-range bomber that can fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet and deploy the widest range of weapons in the US aerial arsenal.

The aircraft has been operated by the US Air Force since the 1950s.

The US-led coalition of 69 nations has conducted an air campaign against Daesh in Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014. However, the coalition’s actions in Syria have not been approved by the country’s government of President Bashar Assad or the UN Security Council.

It was also reported that the United States may deploy an additional 1,000 troops into northern Syria in a matter of weeks to aid the offensive against Daesh in Raqqa.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703161051627659-pentagon-b52-syria-iraq/

 

F-35 firing boosts ASRAAM sales prospects

[Editor’s Note: MBDA is owned by BAE Systems and Airbus Group which each have 37.5% shares and Leonardo – Finmeccanica which has a 25% share.  The group was formed by a merger of French Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles (of EADS, now Airbus Group), Italian Alenia Marconi Systems (now Leonardo) and British Matra BAe Dynamics (of BAE Systems) in December 2001.]

Lockheed Martin F-35s have fired their first non-US-produced missiles in testing, with the activity providing a boost to MBDA’s sales efforts for the ASRAAM.

Announcing the development on 15 March, MBDA said flight trials and air-launched firings have taken place using test aircraft operating from Edwards AFB, California and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

The short-range, infrared-guided ASRAAM is being integrated with the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B variant for the UK. “The effort is progressing to plan, and these integration activities will allow the initial operating capability of the aircraft” for the nation, MBDA says.

The European company hopes that other F-35 customers could opt to acquire its weapon, in preference to the Raytheon AIM-9X. Australia already uses the Mach 3-capable missile on its Boeing F/A-18A/B strike aircraft, and has previously expressed some interest in also using it with its Joint Strike Fighters.

“The fact that it is a real firing that has taken place is important, because that allows the other F-35A and B users to now have a choice,” says Dave Armstrong, MBDA’s executive group director for sales and business development.

Meanwhile, Armstrong says the company remains hopeful that the US military could acquire its Brimstone air-to-surface missile to provide some of its fast jet platforms with an “off-the-shelf” precision strike capability against moving targets, despite the business uncertainty raised by US President Donald Trump’s buy-American agenda.

“We know that the US military still aspires to have Brimstone on [Boeing] F-15 and F-18,” he says. “It’s a question of economics and programme management.”

MBDA on 15 March reported its receipt of new orders worth €4.7 billion ($5 billion) in 2016, against sales totalling €3 billion. This compares with respective figures of €5.2 billion and €2.9 billion in 2015, and chief executive Antoine Bouvier notes that the company’s book-to-bill ratio over the past four years has been 1.6, due to “an exceptional order track record”.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/f-35-firing-boosts-asraam-sales-prospects-435233/

 

Top Indonesian fighter with IS killed in Syria

Followers of the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia for the second time in less than a year have lost a leader with the reported death of Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian militant fighting in Syria who is said to have died on a suicide mission in the war-torn country.

Bahrumsyah’s death comes only four months after IS Indonesian jihadist Abu Jandal al Yemeni Al Indonesi alias Salim Mubarak Atamimi was killed during a US-led international coalition assault in Mosul, Iraq, in November 2016.

The death of Bahrumsyah leaves Bahrun Naim as the only Indonesian IS fighter in Syria with a reputable position in the terrorist organisation.

http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/top-indonesian-fighter-killed-syria#sthash.nn3ibUYy.dpuf

Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition

After six years of conflict, Syria and its people have been completely transformed. The effects of a crisis that has killed nearly a half-million people and forced nearly 11.5 million more from their homes are now etched into the many identities to which Syrians attach themselves. While a majority of Syrians vigorously resist the formal breakup of their country, it is impossible to ignore how the brutal and protracted war has instilled deep divisions in a once-cohesive society.

In many areas of the country, battle lines remain physically drawn among villages that once lived in harmony. And the sectarian dynamic that was once supported only by extremist fringes has started to decisively shape the mainstream opposition.

But Syria’s armed opposition is also changing as a result of internal pressures. Al Qaeda’s Syrian representatives — rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) in July 2016 and then renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) after subsuming several other groups in January — have been relentless, and patient, in pursuing their long-term objective: a merger of all armed Syrian opposition groups under its broad transnational Islamic umbrella. Al Qaeda has commonly called this goal a “uniting of the ranks.”

Largely free of any government instruction, and spurred on by the gradual weakening of the opposition’s most moderate base, al Qaeda spent much of 2012 to 2015 building the trust of Syria’s opposition under the guise of Jabhat al-Nusra, which means literally “support front.” This was the first phase of al Qaeda’s attempt to embed itself in the opposition. The group positioned itself as merely one component of a broad Syrian revolutionary movement, using controlled pragmatism, a clearly defined military strategy, and an emphasis on localism to socialize Syrians into accepting, then supporting, its presence. By rebranding itself as JFS in mid-2016 and by telling Syrians that it had broken its external ties to al Qaeda, the group sought to overcome the only remaining hurdle to uniting the ranks by convincing enough of Syria’s opposition that it was a fundamentally Syrian movement, dedicated to a local cause and not to a transnational jihadi project.

Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition

Moscow lends Turkey credit card to buy Russian missiles

Turkey is looking to pay for a new Russian missile defence system with a loan from Moscow, according to the Russian CEO responsible for the deal.

The loan required to buy a new S-400 missile system was being considered by the Kremlin, Sergey Chemezov told Russia’s state-owned news channel, Rossiya-24.

“They have expressed a wish to get a loan, but the issue has not yet been resolved,” the CEO of Rostech said.

“The Finance Ministry is holding talks, as soon as they sign this and take a decision on allocating a loan, we will sign contracts on supplies, including the S-400.”

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/3/15/moscow-lends-turkey-credit-card-to-buy-russian-missiles

Greek group claims it mailed parcel bomb to German finance minister

The militant Greek group Conspiracy of Fire Cells has claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb mailed to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, police said on Thursday.

The parcel was mailed to Schaeuble from a post office branch in Athens but was intercepted by the German finance ministry’s mail department.

The group has previously claimed responsibility for a wave of parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies in Athens in 2010.

“We still have the rage. We sent the package to Germany’s finance minister as part of the second act of Nemesis Plan,” the group said in a statement on the internet. “Nothing is over, everything continues.”

It did not specify what Nemesis Plan was. Police consider the claim as credible.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-schaueble-parcelbomb-idUSKBN16N1BA

Letter bomb explodes at France office of IMF, injuring 1

A letter bomb exploded Thursday at the French office of the International Monetary Fund, lightly injuring one person, according to Paris police.

Staff from the IMF office were evacuated and armed military officers and police guarded the area, in a chic district of western Paris. The World Bank office in France is in the same compound.

It is unclear who sent the homemade explosive, which was like a “big firecracker” and sent by regular mail, said Paris police chief Michel Cadot. He said the IMF office had received threatening phone calls in recent days but they were not necessarily linked to Thursday’s incident.

IMF director Christine Lagarde, who is French, said in a statement that she was informed about the explosion while on a trip to Germany. “I condemn this cowardly act of violence and reaffirm the IMF’s resolve to continue our work in line with our mandate,” she said.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/business/article138830503.html#storylink=cpy

S-400 missile systems will not be integrated into NATO system, Defense Minister says

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
emAA Photo/em

AA Photo

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said that Russia’s S-400 missile systems would not be integrated into the NATO system during a televised live interview Thursday.

Işık said that Turkey preferred to purchase the long-range missiles from a NATO member, but added that Turkey had not seen desired cooperation.

The defense minister stated that if the two countries agree upon the sale of S-400 missile defense systems, then there would not be any obstacles.

Işık emphasized that the S-400 missiles would be placed under national control, adding that Turkey could produce its own missile defense system within five to seven years, which would then be integrated into the NATO system.

Turkish officials confirmed Wednesday that the talks between Turkey and Russia concerning the sale of S-400 missile defense systems have been positive, also noting that negotiations on the details of the deal are ongoing.

The sale of the missile system was also discussed during a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow during Erdoğan’s visit to Russia March 10.

https://www.dailysabah.com/defense/2017/03/16/s-400-missile-systems-will-not-be-integrated-into-nato-system-defense-minister-says

 

Russia Military To Practice Detecting Missiles Amid NATO Tensions

Amid growing tensions with NATO, a division of Russia’s Aerospace Force will practice detecting ballistic missiles during launches carried out by the Strategic Missile Force, Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Viktor Bondarev said Wednesday, in an interview with Russian daily Krasnaya Zvezda.

Space Troops, the division of Aerospace Force, is expected to launch 15 carrier rockets this year and about 40 tactical exercises with subordinate military units will also be conducted, Bondarev reportedly said.

“The Space Troops will team up with other branches and services of the Russian Armed Forces to practice detecting ballistic missiles, using the forces and resources of the (Special Designation) Aerospace Army during the demonstrative launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the Strategic Missile Force,” Bondarev told the Russian-language newspaper, according to Tass news agency.

“For the purpose of building up the orbital grouping of satellites, 15 launches of space carrier rockets have been planned to deliver more than 20 satellites into orbit,” Bondarev added.

http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-military-practice-detecting-missiles-amid-nato-tensions-2509521

Kuwait approves NATO use of its territory

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari (not seen) hold a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation cooperation in Baghdad, Iraq, on 28 December 2016. [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah attends a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation

The Kuwaiti National Assembly approved on Tuesday an Agreement between the State of Kuwait and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on the transit of troops and members of the alliance across Kuwaiti territory.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly explained in a report that the agreement works on a legal basis and provisions which permit the transit of forces and members of the NATO alliance through the State of Kuwait if a request is made.

Kuwait News Agency reported First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, saying that Kuwait is “one of the first countries to join the Istanbul iInitiative, which seeks to see security and stability in the region in 2004”.

Sabah stressed on the importance of cooperating with 28 countries represented in the alliance for the sake of the country’s security and stability.

He noted Kuwait has cooperated with NATO in several areas such as counter-terrorism, natural calamities and in areas of maritime security and military training.

Al-Sabah said his country’s cooperation with NATO came in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions which stipulate helping NATO forces and facilitating their tasks to help in Iraq and Afghanistan.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170316-kuwait-approves-nato-use-of-its-territory/

14 Obama Holdovers Still at the PentagonDrew Angerer – Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – There are 14 Obama holdovers still at the Pentagon, two months into the Trump administration.

Currently, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is the only presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed appointee at the Pentagon, out of 53 such positions.

Obama holdovers are filling four of those positions: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work remains in his position; Robert Speer is serving as Acting Army Secretary; Sean Stackley is serving as Acting Navy Secretary; and Lisa Disbrow as Acting Air Force Secretary.

The Pentagon said there are 10 other Obama holdovers still serving, but has declined to name who they are or what positions they are filling.

Trump has filled an additional 32 slots for non-Senate confirmed positions, for a total of 33 hires, including Mattis. That number is less than a fourth of the 163 political appointees at the Pentagon on election day.

The White House was expected to announce a handful of names for top political positions at the Pentagon as soon as this week, a defense official told Breitbart News. The White House declined to give a time frame for the announcement.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/03/16/14-obama-holdovers-still-at-the-pentagon/

Espionage risk to US heightened as China’s military presses its domestic tech firms

China is taking a page from the Pentagon’s playbook under the Obama administration: it’s partnering with tech companies to develop more cutting-edge weapons.

But China’s innovation-focused strategy could elevate the espionage risk to the U.S.

Ironically, this new threat emerges as the Trump administration is expected to slow its outreach to the tech firms.

Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an address to the country’s national legislature where he urged the People’s Liberation Army “to speed up” the application of advanced technologies, according to the Chinese military’s official web portal. Jinping sees “integrated military and civilian development” as one of the drivers of science-tech innovation and key to upgrading China’s military capabilities.

‘Trump’s presidency is an opportunity for Xi’  Tuesday, 14 Mar 2017 | 7:27 PM ET | 01:23

“If you were to look at reports like Chinese military power over time, it’s obvious that China is closing the gap more quickly than, for example, we probably would have estimated five or three years ago,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert and Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, D.C.

The communist nation’s military has made major technology strides in the past decade in missile, laser weapon, advanced sensor and stealth aircraft development with the help of Chinese firms in the civilian sector.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/15/espionage-risk-to-us-heightened-by-china-military-innovation-push.html

Donald Trump gives Pentagon permission to carry out more raids in Yemen after botched operation

Similar permission is being sought by military leaders to carry out operations in Libya and Somalia 

  • Ben Kentish
  • Donald Trump has reportedly given the Pentagon permission to carry out more raids in Yemen – despite a botched mission in January that resulted in the deaths of 20 civilians and a US Navy Seal.

The White House told military leaders they can carry out missions in the Gulf state without specific presidential approval.

Negotiations about extending similar permissions to raids in Libya and Somalia are also taking place, CNN reported.

Instead of needing Mr Trump to sign off on specific missions, officials told the broadcaster that military leaders will be given the freedom to carry out operations providing they are in line with a broader strategy agreed by the President.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-yemen-raids-permission-botched-death-navy-seal-ryan-owens-a7631126.html

Trump’s ‘Reaffirming the Right of CIA to Decide Whom to Kill and Where’

US President Donald Trump has authorized the CIA to carry out drone strikes against terrorists, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday citing anonymous US officials. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Laurie Calhoun, the author of the book “We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.”

US drone campaigns have been repeatedly criticized for civilian casualties. Now there are concerns that the authorization of the CIA to carry out drone strikes against terrorists will lead to even more controversy.

Trump reportedly extended the authority of the agency shortly after his inauguration. The intelligence agency will now be able to use unmanned aircraft and target terrorists without permission from the Pentagon or the White House.

https://sputniknews.com/us/201703151051619733-trump-reaffirming-cia/

North Korean Hackers Were Behind a Recent Major Cyber Attack

A North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus was likely behind a recent cyber campaign targeting organizations in 31 countries, following high-profile attacks on Bangladesh Bank, Sony and South Korea, cyber security firm Symantec said on Wednesday.

Symantec said in a blog that researchers have uncovered four pieces of digital evidence suggesting the Lazarus group was behind the campaign that sought to infect victims with “loader” software used to stage attacks by installing other malicious programs.

“We are reasonably certain” Lazarus was responsible, Symantec researcher Eric Chien said in an interview.

The North Korean government has denied allegations it was involved in the hacks, which were made by officials in Washington and Seoul, as well as security firms.

http://fortune.com/2017/03/15/north-korea-hackers-cyber-attack/

Taiwan military to upgrade fighters, seek stealth capability

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan is planning to upgrade its F-16 fighter jets and will seek cutting-edge stealth aircraft from the United States in the face of a growing military threat from rival China, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The announcement follows the release of this year’s $11.4 billion defense budget, an increase of less than 1 percent from last year, reflecting strains on the government’s finances resulting from a heavy entitlements burden and slowing growth in the high-tech, export-oriented economy.

That compares to China’s 7 percent rise in defense spending, announced this week, bringing its defense budget to about $151 billion, the world’s second largest after the United States.

In response, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers that Taiwan is focusing on inexpensive but effective “asymmetric warfare” techniques to combat threats in the air and seas.

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/taiwan-military-to-upgrade-fighters-seek-stealth-capability/

Take your best shot: Iraqi soldiers are now using SHUTTLECOCK grenades attached to drones to bomb jihadis (after stealing the idea from ISIS)

  • Feathered tails usually found on badminton courts being attached to explosives
  • They are fitted in order to keep them balanced when they fall ensuring accuracy
  • ISIS had previously been using the tactic, which is now employed by Iraqi troops 

The Iraqi army is giving ISIS a taste of its own medicine by bombing them with shuttlecock grenades attached to drones.

The feathered tails, usually found on badminton courts across the world, are being attached to the grenades in order to keep them balanced when they fall to ensure a more accurate explosion.

ISIS had previously been using the tactic to drop bombs on coalition forces and civilians in Iraq, but after seeing their effectiveness, the weapons are now in the hands of their opposition.

A member of the Iraqi forces carries two grenades carrying feathers, which are to be fired from a drone in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

A member of the Iraqi forces carries two grenades carrying feathers, which are to be fired from a drone in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

Two Iraqi soldiers prepare the drone on the street next to a heavily-armoured vehicle for the test flight 

Two Iraqi soldiers prepare the drone on the street next to a heavily-armoured vehicle for the test flight

Terrorists have used small commercial drones to drop explosives on advancing Iraqi forces since they launched the offensive to retake Iraq’s second city in October.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4319902/Iraqi-soldiers-using-SHUTTLECOCK-grenades-target-ISIS.html#ixzz4bVjDlw5b

Suspected Hack Attack Snagging Cell Phone Data Across D.C.

Malicious entity could be tracking phones of domestic, foreign officials

 

BY:
March 16, 2017 12:50 pm

An unusual amount of highly suspicious cellphone activity in the Washington, D.C., region is fueling concerns that a rogue entity is surveying the communications of numerous individuals, likely including U.S. government officials and foreign diplomats, according to documents viewed by the Washington Free Beacon and conversations with security insiders.

A large spike in suspicious activity on a major U.S. cellular carrier has raised red flags in the Department of Homeland Security and prompted concerns that cellphones in the region are being tracked. Such activity could allow pernicious actors to clone devices and other mobile equipment used by civilians and government insiders, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon.

It remains unclear who is behind the attacks, but the sophistication and amount of time indicates it could be a foreign nation, sources said.

Mass amounts of location data appear to have been siphoned off by a third party who may have control of entire cell phone towers in the area, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon. This information was compiled by a program that monitors cell towers for anomalies supported by DHS and ESD America and known as ESD Overwatch.

Cell phone information gathered by the program shows major anomalies in the D.C.-area indicating that a third-party is tracking en-masse a large number of cellphones. Such a tactic could be used to clone phones, introduce malware to facilitate spying, and track government phones being used by officials in the area.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/hack-attack-cell-phone-data-dc/

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March 7, 2017

Wikileaks Reveals Massive CIA Cyber Spying Operation

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

“Year Zero” introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.

https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/

 

Wikileaks: CIA ‘Stole’ Russian Malware, Uses It to ‘Misdirect Attribution’ of Cyber Attacks

“Russian” hacking? It could have just as easily been the CIA

From the Wikileaks “Year Zero” dump:

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch‘s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

Everyone knew it. Now we have proof.

“Fingerprints” are meaningless.

http://russia-insider.com/en/wikileaks-cia-stole-russian-malware-uses-it-misdirect-attribution-cyber-attacks/ri19134

Malaysia foils ‘Yemeni attack on Arab royals’

Malaysian police say they have foiled a planned attack on Arab royals by suspected militants from Yemen.

Four Yemenis and three other suspects including a Malaysian and an Indonesian were arrested ahead of Saudi King Salman’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur.

The monarch is currently touring Asia with 25 princes in his entourage.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a military coalition against the Houthi insurgent group in Yemen for the last two years.

However, it is unclear what group – if any – the Yemeni nationals were aligned with.

A senior police source told news agency Reuters the four were believed to be Houthi insurgents. However, other sources say the suspects were linked to so-called Islamic State.

It is also unclear whether the other three arrested were part of the same group.

The seven suspects were arrested between 21 and 26 February – the day King Salman arrived in the Malaysian capital.

National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told journalists the group were “planning to attack the Arab royalties during the visit in Kuala Lumpur”.

“We got them in the nick of time,” he said.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39193173

Kim Jong-un takes Malaysians ‘hostage’ and bans anyone from the country from leaving North Korea after Kuala Lumpur embassy is sealed off in hunt for assassins

  • Pyongyang banned Malaysians from leaving North Korea in escalating dispute
  • Measure imposed to ensure ‘safety of the diplomats and citizens’ of North Korea
  • Malaysia responded by closing its borders to North Koreans wanting to leave
  • Tit-for-tat measures are latest in escalating row over death of Kim Jong-nam

North Korea has banned all Malaysians from leaving the country in a dramatic escalation of the row over the death of Kim Jong-Un‘s half brother.

Malaysia likened the travel ban to hostage taking and then responded in kind, closing its borders to North Koreans who want to leave.

The tit-for-tat directives come as relations between the two countries disintegrate over the poisoning of Kim Jong Nam in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13.

Pyongyang’s extraordinary move came as it faced growing international condemnation for a volley of missiles it fired into the Sea of Japan, defying stringent global sanctions aimed at halting its weapons programme.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4288644/N-Korea-Malaysia-ban-citizens-leaving.html#ixzz4aeXhp2dK

 

Missile defense system that China opposes arrives in South Korea

  • THAAD is designed to take down North Korean missiles
  • China says it will take measure to preserve its interests

Seoul (CNN)The first pieces of a US-built missile defense system designed to mitigate the threat of North Korean missiles arrived at the Osan Air Base in South Korea Monday night, according to the US military.

The announcement comes just a day after North Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
China has voiced opposition to the proposed placement of the military hardware known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which it sees as a threat to its own security.
“We will firmly take necessary measures to preserve our own security interest, and the US and South Korea must bear the potential consequences,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday.

North Korea is ‘training for an attack on US bases in Japan’: Kim Jong Un is pictured applauding missile launch as Trump warns him of ‘dire consequences’ and sends anti-missile system to the South

  • North Korea said Tuesday its missile launches were training for a strike on US bases in Japan
  • Three of four missiles shot landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone
  • The US has also begun deploying a missile defense system in South Korea to protect against North Korea
  • China said such US interference poses a ‘clear, present and substantive threat to China’s security interests’
  • The UN Security Council will have an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss these developments
  • Donald Trump and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe say North Korea threat has ‘entered a new stage’

Nuclear-armed North Korea said Tuesday its missile launches were training for a strike on US bases in Japan, as President Trump warned Kim Jong-Un of ‘dire consequences’ and deployed missiles to South Korea.

The latest declaration from Pyongyang comes the day after it launched four ballistic missiles 600 miles into the Sea of Japan, in an alarming show of strength.

On Tuesday, the regime also released pictures of King Jong-Un watching the launch of the missiles and applauding with a wild grin on his face.

Three of the four missiles fired Monday came down provocatively close to US ally Japan, in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone, representing a challenge to US President Donald Trump.

In a phone call, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that the threat from North Korea had ‘entered a new stage.’

Meanwhile, Washington and Seoul have agreed to deploy a US missile defense system called THAAD to South Korea, which has infuriated China, the North’s key diplomatic ally and crucial to efforts to persuade it to change its ways.

 North Korea news sources showed the country's leader, Kim Jong-Un, smiling and clapping as the nuclear-armed nation launched three missiles in training for a strike on US bases in Japan

 North Korea news sources showed the country’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, smiling and clapping as the nuclear-armed nation launched three missiles in training for a strike on US bases in Japan

The missiles were launched by the North Korean military

North Korea sources said the missiles were preparation for a strike on Japan

Three of the four missiles fired Monday, pictured, came down provocatively close to US ally Japan, in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone, representing a challenge to US President Donald Trump

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4288400/North-Korea-training-attack-bases-Japan.html#ixzz4ae0CT4yj

China’s ZTE to plead guilty, settle with U.S. over Iran, North Korea sales

March 7 at 3:50 PM
Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE will plead guilty and pay $892 million to settle allegations it violated U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea, the company and U.S. government agencies said Tuesday.

ZTE entered into an agreement to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, obstruction of justice and making a material false statement, the Justice Department said.

The settlement was made with Justice, the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department.

The Commerce Department investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that ZTE had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars’ worth of hardware and software from some of the best-known U.S. technology companies to Iran’s largest telecommunications carrier.

“ZTE acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change in the company,” Zhao Xianming, ZTE’s chairman and chief executive, said Tuesday in a statement.

Between January 2010 and January 2016, ZTE directly or indirectly shipped U.S.-origin items worth approximately $32 million to Iran without obtaining the proper export licenses from the U.S. government. ZTE then lied to federal investigators, insisting that the shipments had stopped, the Justice Department said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/chinas-zte-pleads-guilty-settles-with-us-over-iran-north-korea-sales/2017/03/07/16a0b2c2-0356-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?utm_term=.b797bf1c04e9

H.R. McMaster, top Trump security adviser, faces questions in rare hearing

– Associated Press 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The senior Army officer tapped by President Donald Trump to be his national security adviser faces questions from senators during a rare closed-door meeting amid intense scrutiny of the White House for alleged Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s appearance before the Armed Services Committee, slated for Tuesday, is unusual because national security advisers aren’t subject to Senate confirmation and typically don’t testify on Capitol Hill. But McMaster’s situation is different. He elected to stay on active duty rather than retire from the military and generals of his grade need the chamber’s approval when they’re promoted or get new assignments.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee’s Republican chairman, said members will vote at the end of session on whether to recommend to the full Senate that McMaster retain his three-star rank.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/7/top-trump-security-adviser-faces-questions-in-rare/

US, Russian, Turkish military chiefs meet in Antalya to discuss Syria, Iraq (PHOTOS)

US, Russian, Turkish military chiefs meet in Antalya to discuss Syria, Iraq (PHOTOS)
Turkey’s military chief of staff, General Hulusi Akar, is hosting a meeting with the heads of the US and Russian armed forces in the southern Turkish province of Antalya, according to Ankara and Moscow.

The meeting is being attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford Jr., Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov and Turkey’s military chief of staff General Hulusi Akar.

https://www.rt.com/news/379687-russia-us-turkey-meet-syria/

Russian general hit by roadside bomb in Syria loses both legs

Russian Major General Pyotr Milyukhin lost both his legs and an eye when a radio controlled bomb hit a military convoy heading from the Tiyas airfield, west of Palmyra, to the Syrian city of Homs, it has been confirmed.

Milyukhin is in an intensive care unit at Russia’s Main Military Clinical Hospital, medical officials confirmed to RIA Novosti on Friday.

The hospital refused to disclose any details, but said that the high-ranking officer had been placed “in the 56th department.”

The incident occurred in mid-February, Kommersant daily reported, citing sources. Four of the six people traveling in the armored vehicle along with Milyukhin reportedly lost their lives.

https://www.rt.com/news/379597-russian-general-bomb-legs/

A Russian contract soldier died near Palmyra on March 2, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Monday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the soldier was killed during a terrorist offensive on Syrian army’s positions, where Russian military advisers were present.

“Artem Gorbunov died on March 2 near Palmyra when repelling Daesh terrorists’ attempts to advance on the positions of Syrian [government] troops, where Russian military advisers were present.”

The soldier was posthumously awarded. Earlier in the day, Gorbunov was buried at a cemetery in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.

According to the Defense Ministry, 28 Russian servicemen have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703061051314615-russia-serviceman-dies-syria/

2,100 Iranian fighters said killed in Iraq, Syria

Figure doubles earlier death count from November, which only included Syria fighting

More than 2,000 fighters sent from Iran have been killed in Iraq and Syria, the head of Iran’s veterans’ affairs office said Tuesday.

“Some 2,100 martyrs have been martyred so far in Iraq or other places defending the holy mausoleums,” Mohammad Ali Shahidi told the state-run IRNA news agency.

Shahidi, who is head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, was speaking at a conference on martyrdom culture in Tehran.

The figure was more than double the number he gave in November, which referred only to Syria.

Iran is, with Russia, the main military backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and also organizes militias fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq.

Shahidi did not provide details on the nationalities of those killed.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/2100-iran-fighters-said-killed-in-iraq-syria/

War, Violence Cost Iraq $36 Billion

Baghdad- A report released by Iraq’s ministry of planning revealed the disastrous damage done by the gruesome acts of violence and aggression throughout 2004-2016 of fighting terror group ISIS.

Overall infrastructure damage, save for that inflicted on the Iraqi Kurdistan region, has been accounted for by the report. Losses suffered by civilians and their assets, and those registered through local corruption and embezzlement were excluded from the report.

Destruction cited by the report amounted to $36 billion.

All the more, Iraq’s culture ministry said that it was unable to estimate the value of stolen effects belonging to the national body responsible for antiquities and heritage.

http://english.aawsat.com/2017/03/article55368850/war-violence-cost-iraq-36-billion

The multipurpose indigenously-designed and -manufactured Iranian helicopter Saba 248
The multipurpose indigenously-designed and -manufactured Iranian helicopter Saba 248

Iran has unveiled a new utility helicopter capable of serving both military and civilian purposes.

The ceremony to unveil the helicopter, named Saba 248, took place in the presence of Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan on Tuesday.

Iran’s Helicopter Renovation and Logistics Company (PANHA), associated with the Defense Ministry’s Aviation Industries Organization, has designed and manufactured the aircraft.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/07/513357/Iran-Saba-248-helicopter-Dehqan

Trump, Netanyahu Discuss Iran, Anti-Semitism in Call

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a long telephone conversation Monday about strategic threats posed by Iran.

“The two leaders spoke at length about the dangers arising from the nuclear deal with Iran and Iranian aggression in the [Middle East] region and the need to work together to deal with those dangers,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Netanyahu has been a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal signed between Iran and major world powers that went into effect in January. The Israeli leader has said the deal does not go far enough and when some of the clauses of the deal expire in 10 and 15 years, it will leave Tehran on the threshold of building a bomb.

The president had told Netanyahu when the two met at the White House last month that the nuclear agreement was “one of the worst deals” he had ever seen.

http://www.voanews.com/a/trump-netanyahu-discuss-iran-antisemitism-in-call/3752545.html

Iran setting up shell shipping companies to export weapons and illicit goods: investigation

Nearly half of all shipping docks in Iran are operated by the regime’s military, and it is using shell companies to smuggle weapons and other illicit goods, according to a new report.

A total of 90 docks have been taken over by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is using them to circumvent sanctions and fund terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond, according to the anti-regime People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

“Based on the direct order of the current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, no authority is allowed to oversee the activities of the IRGC at border areas, be it on the ground, sea or air, and it can import anything in any quantity without paying any customs fee,” PMOI officials said in a statement provided to Fox News. “The IRGC uses these docks for its unlawful activities.”

The PMOI adds that in order to fund its activities, the Revolutionary Guard engages in smuggling oil, gas, chemical products, cigarettes, narcotics, alcohol, mobile phones, pharmaceuticals, hygiene material and energy drugs and supplements.

The importing and exporting of these illicit goods has allowed the IRGC to net $12 billion annually, the group estimates.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/07/iran-setting-up-shell-shipping-companies-to-export-weapons-and-illicit-goods-investigation.html

 

Iran vs Russia: The Next Natural Gas War

Not everybody attending the Iranian natural gas summit last week in Frankfurt was there for the same reason.

While most were gauging the prospects for an opening of major natural gas reserves and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export prospects, others were there for quite different reasons.

Take the three representatives from Russia’s gas giant Gazprom (OGZPY), for example. They weren’t there to scout new investment packages. On the contrary… They were there to see just how badly their company’s position was under siege.

And it’s no wonder the Gazprom guys looked concerned. From what I saw at the summit, they have every reason to be.

For energy investors, on the other hand, the news is very good…

Gazprom is in Dire Straits

Gazprom may still be the largest natural gas company on the face of the Earth, exporting more gas than anybody else and providing revenues that account for the biggest single chunk of the Russian central budget… But it is facing down some difficult times.

For one, extractions are declining at the primary mature fields the company has depended on for decades. To offset that growing problem, Gazprom needs to move into three very expensive new regions – above the Arctic Circle, onto the continental shelf, and into eastern Siberia.

Moscow is hard pressed to provide the necessary funds for that.

http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Iran-vs-Russia-The-Next-Natural-Gas-War.html

Iran’s Crude-Oil Exports Increase to Level Last Seen in 1970s

Iran’s crude-oil exports touched 3 million barrels a day for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

That level, lasting just one day, was reached in the current Iranian month that began Feb. 19, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, according to state news agency IRNA.

The Islamic Republic’s exports tumbled in 2011 as international sanctions targeted its oil industry, cutting production. Since restrictions ended in January 2016, Iran has recovered quickly, raising output near pre-sanctions levels of about 4 million barrels a day. It’s targeting 5 million a day by 2021 with the help of foreign investors, though none has yet signed a definitive contract.

Iran’s crude exports have averaged 2.45 million barrels a day since Feb. 19, Bloomberg tanker-tracking data show.

The country in November won an exemption from output cuts agreed on by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, saying it was still recovering from sanctions. Production exceeded 6 million barrels a day in the 1970s, before the Islamic Revolution drove away Western investors and prompted a long confrontation with the U.S.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-07/iran-s-crude-oil-exports-increase-to-level-last-seen-in-1970s

Iran Tests New Weapons in Yemen

This was revealed by the Houthi Supreme Political Council (SPS) at the end of last month.

Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Houthis in Yemen, said, on February 10, that the Houthis had been able to increase the range and accuracy of their weapons and could now launch attacks on Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition forces which are fighting the Houthis in Yemen.

The coalition forces have also intercepted drones with missile firing capabilities that bore Iranian markers.

In January, the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah which was near the Yemeni port of Hudeida was attacked by an unmanned and guided boat, according to Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, U.S. Fifth Fleet commander.

Later reports from the U.S. Naval Institute indicated that the naval craft was provided by the navy of the IRGC.

IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, wrote: “Such vessels pose a new threat to civilian maritime traffic, open a new page in the clashes between Iran and Saudi Arabia in this sensitive arena, and could reach other Iranian-supported terror organizations in the world.”

http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31340:iran-tests-new-weapons-in-yemen&catid=9:terrorism&Itemid=114

Iran, Italy to hold scientific coop. meeting

TEHRAN, Mar. 07 (MNA) – Iran and Italy will organize the first ever meeting on joint scientific, technological and innovative cooperation in mid-April, deputy head of research at Science Ministry said on Tuesday.

 

According to Vahid Ahmadi, the meeting aims at providing new opportunities for universities, educational institutions, research centers, Technology and knowledge-based companies based at science and technology parks in Iran and Italy.

Other objectives of the meeting include development of connections among research centers and Hi Tech companies for promotion of technology transfer of products, services and innovation capacities; promoting the top scientific and technological trends in both countries through further bilateral dialogues among organizations as well as supporting cooperation in the fields of research, commercialization and development of innovation.

Iran-Italy’s joint meeting on scientific cooperation is slated for 19-20 April 2017 in Tehran.

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/124070/Iran-Italy-to-hold-scientific-coop-meeting

Germany delays contract with MBDA for missile defence system-sources

Germany’s defence ministry on Tuesday told lawmakers that it would not complete a contract for a multi-billion euro new missile defence system with European arms maker MBDA during the current legislative period, as planned, ministry sources said.

Ministry officials remain committed to concluding a contract with MBDA for the Medium Extended Air Defence System that will replace the current Patriot air and missile defence system, but said there was still work to do on MBDA proposal, as well as how the overall project would be managed, the sources said.

Regardless of the MEADS outcome, the ministry also plans to spend several hundred million euros to modernise the software and hardware of the German military’s existing Patriot system, which was built by Raytheon Co, the sources said.

The delay in the MEADS project marks another setback for Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has sought to reform Germany’s troubled weapons procurement process since taking office in late 2013. A second multi-billion euro programme to build a new multi-role ship has also been delayed.

 

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-germany-delays-contract-with-mbda-for-missile-defence-system-sources-2345107

Conservative Fillon wins ‘unanimous’ support from party leadership

Latest update : 2017-03-07

France’s embattled presidential hopeful Francois Fillon on Monday won “unanimous” support from his Republicans party, putting him firmly back in the driver’s seat after veteran conservative Alain Juppe rejected calls to stand in his place.

“The political committee, after a wide-ranging exchange, unanimously renewed its support for Francois Fillon,” Senate speaker Gerard Larcher told reporters after around 20 party seniors met to “evaluate” the crisis sparked by the fake jobs scandal clouding Fillon’s campaign.

Fillon, 63, had told the meeting that Juppe‘s definitive decision not to run “confirmed that there isn’t a plan B” to his candidacy, according to a text of his remarks sent to AFP.

With just seven weeks to go before the country goes to the polls in a two-stage vote, Fillon said: “We have lost too much time with vain debates, leaving the way open for the far right and candidates on the left who are rubbing their hands over our disunity.”

EU army moves step closer: Ministers APPROVE Brussels defence headquarters

THE EU army came one step closer today after ministers approved plans for a military command centre based in Brussels.

states agreed to open a command centre to run military training missions abroad, a step France and Italy hope is a precursor to an EU defence headquarters in the face of a growing Russian threat.Foreign and defence ministers approved the Brussels-based command, which will be run by some 30 people when it is launched in the next few weeks.

Britain has long opposed the crumbling bloc’s plans for its own army with fears the defence force could undermine operations.

The EU is seeking to match its economic might with an ability to deter militant or Russian threats, as well as using peacekeepers to stabilise failing states on EU borders.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/775843/eu-army-ministers-approve-brussels-defence-command-centre

Pentagon: U.S. airstrike in Yemen killed ex-Guantánamo detainee

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February 17, 2017

Cruz to Trump: Name John Bolton as national security adviser

 “One person I think would be very, very strong is John Bolton,” Cruz told CNN
The comment comes as Trump’s national security council is facing turmoil

Washington (CNN)Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is urging President Donald Trump to name John Bolton as his national security adviser, a move that would win conservative support but would anger other Republicans over the former United Nations ambassador’s role during the Iraq War.

“One person I think would be very, very strong is John Bolton,” Cruz told CNN. “He’s someone who understands the world, he understands the threats of radical Islamic terrorism.”
The comment comes as Trump’s national security council is facing turmoil following the sudden forced resignation of Michael Flynn and the decision by retired Vice Adm. Bob Harward to turn down the job.

Trump to interview trio of candidates to replace Flynn

President Trump will interview three candidates this weekend for White House national security adviser, a position left vacant after the president called for Gen. Mike Flynn’s resignation on Monday.

Similar to the manner in which Trump conducted interviews during his transition, the president asked all three men to meet at Mar-a-Lago for separate sit-downs with him and his aides to discuss the position, according to an administration official.

Those invited include former UN Ambassador John Bolton, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Kellogg was spotted boarding Air Force One with Trump on his way to his beachside club in West Palm Beach, Fla. and was praised by the president in a tweet early Friday morning.

Bolton was thrown into the mix on Friday after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz floated his name in an interview with CNN. The former Bush administration official had previously been under consideration for secretary of state.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-to-interview-trio-of-candidates-to-replace-flynn/article/2615206

 

Give us Kim family’s DNA or no body, Malaysian police tell North Korea

  • North Korea says it will reject autopsy results
  • Three arrests have been made after Kim’s death but no autopsy results
(CNN)In the latest twist in the bizarre murder of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Malaysia says it won’t release the body to North Korea without DNA from the Kim family.

Selangor Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat said without DNA from a next of kin, they won’t hand over Kim Jong Nam’s body or release the autopsy report, which could reveal the cause of death.

But North Korea says it will “reject” the results of a “forced” autopsy which was not witnessed by its officials, according to a statement from the country’s ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol. The ambassador demanded the immediate release of the body.

France vows to retaliate if Kremlin meddles in its elections as presidential candidate is forced to deny he’s gay following Russian media ‘smear campaign’

  • French Foreign minister says France ‘won’t accept any interference’ in elections
  • Jean-Marc Ayrault warned of ‘retaliatory measures’ in event of Russian influence
  • Comes after a leading candidate in elections accused Moscow of cyber attacks
  • Warnings come amid heightened tensions between Vladimir Putin and the West 

Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault threatened ‘retaliatory measures’ in the event of interference in upcoming presidential elections in April.

His warning comes after American intelligence accused Moscow hackers of helping Donald Trump win the US presidency.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4234538/France-vows-retaliation-Russia-meddles-elections.html#ixzz4YwmgZEI4

Trump’s choice to replace fired Mike Flynn TURNS HIM DOWN as national security advisor position remains vacant for now

  • Robert Harward was Donald Trump’s pick to succeed Mike Flynn
  • ‘Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality’
  • Said to be concerned about reports Flynn’s deputies were told they could stay 

The man President Donald Trump has chosen to be his national security adviser isn’t eager to accept the offer.

Robert Harward, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and a long-time special forces veteran, is Trump’s pick to succeed retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, whom he fired on Monday.

But Financial Times reported Thursday afternoon that Harward has said no.

Citing two unnamed sources, the newspaper published a story describing Trump in crisis mode, trying to persuade Harward to take over a National Security Council left in limbo with Flynn’s unexpected departure.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4233168/Trump-s-choice-replace-fired-Mike-Flynn-TURNS-DOWN.html#ixzz4YwnXZ3Na

NATO Interested in Normalizing Relations With Russia – German Defense Minister

NATO is interested in establishing a stable relationship with Russia, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Friday.

MUNICH (Sputnik) — A stable relationship between the sides is important for fighting international terrorism, she asserted.

“We are interested in establishing reliable relations with Russia again,” von der Leyen said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference.

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the bloc is strongly in favor of dialogue with Russia from the predictable position.

Relations between Russia and NATO, which started in 1991 with Russia joining the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and the Partnership for Peace program, deteriorated in 2014 after Crimea rejoined Russia. With the start of military conflict in Ukraine, all civil and military cooperation between NATO and Russia was frozen.

Since then, the Alliance has increased its military presence in Eastern Europe, using Russia’s alleged aggression as a pretext. Moscow has repeatedly criticized NATO for deploying military facilities and troops near Russian borders.

Moscow has repeatedly voiced its protests against the NATO military buildup saying that will undermine regional stability and result in a new arms race.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201702181050805503-nato-interested-russia-ties/

 

There Is No Solution in Afghanistan

Analysis: The road to Kabul goes through Islamabad and New Delhi

BY:

The American predicament in Afghanistan is at once ridiculous and tragic. More than 8,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, prosecuting the longest war in our nation’s history. Overlapping networks of insurgent groups—most prominently the Taliban—had a good year in 2016, seizing terrain and conducting terror strikes to destabilize the U.S.-backed Kabul government. The American commander in the country wants a “few thousand” more troops. Despite the supporting role that the U.S. contingent is meant to play, casualties are still being sustained, sometimes in places with depressingly familiar names—as in Sangin, seized from the Taliban a few years ago at the expense of gallons of British and U.S. Marine blood. Two Americans were wounded there last week.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/no-solution-afghanistan/

U.S. Adversaries Closing Gap With American Aircraft Capabilities

Pentagon official: F-35 fighter jet program still vulnerable to cyber threats

A F-35 Fighter performs at the 2016 Chicago Air and Water Show in Chicago / AP

BY:
February 16, 2017 4:15 pm

U.S. adversaries are rapidly catching up to America’s fifth generation fighter aircraft capabilities—a risk that has exacerbated given ongoing cyber vulnerabilities in the F-35 fighter jet program, according to an Air Force major general.

Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris Jr., the vice commander of Air Combat Command at the Langley, Va., base, said Thursday that while the United States maintains an advantage in the stealth and weapons capacities inherent in fifth generation fighter aircraft models, adversaries are “quickly closing the gap.”

“We are trying to maximize our ability to procure fifth generation airplanes and go from a 100 percent fourth generation fleet to a significant mix of fifth generation [planes] so that we have the opportunity to operate in these hostile environments against these threats that are catching us faster than we thought they would,” Harris testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/u-s-adversaries-closing-gap-american-aircraft-capabilities/

CIA Director Pompeo denies agency hides intelligence from Trump

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday denied allegations that the agency was hiding intelligence from President Trump.

Pompeo called reports that the agency was keeping intelligence from Trump “dead wrong.” He added that the reports damage the “integrity of thousands of professional intelligence officers.”

“The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the president, period. We are not aware of any instance when that has occurred,” Pompeo said in a statement Thursday in an attempt to dispute reports that the spy community is withholding information from the commander in chief.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/17/cia-director-pompeo-denies-agency-hides-intelligence-from-trump.html

Pentagon found no documents approving Flynn’s pay for Russia TV appearances

The Pentagon hasn’t found any documents indicating that Mike Flynn received authorization to accept money from a foreign government before traveling to Moscow in 2015 for a paid Russian state TV event, according to a letter from the acting Secretary of the Army.

The Pentagon finding came after lawmakers raised questions about whether the former White House national security adviser and retired U.S. Army general violated Pentagon rules that require retired officers to report income from foreign states.

Mr. Flynn accepted an invitation to Moscow in late 2015 to give a paid, sit-down interview with Russian state television network RT and to attend the channel’s 10-year anniversary gala, where he sat beside President Vladimir Putin.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/17/pentagon-found-no-documents-approving-flynns-pay-for-russia-tv-appearances.html

EU must not let US push it to increase military spending – Juncker

EU must not let US push it to increase military spending – Juncker
Europe mustn’t be pushed by the US to increase its military spending, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. Modern politics is also about humanitarian assistance and development, not only “raising defence spending,” he added.

“It [increasing military spending] has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Juncker said, speaking on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference on Wednesday.

Juncker added that he does not like “our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military.”

https://www.rt.com/news/377691-juncker-us-europe-military-demands/

In China, a sense of betrayal after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam

February 17 at 5:13 AM
China’s Foreign Ministry has been at its stonewalling, non-committal best this week after news of the dramatic assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’S leader, repeating the mantra that it has “noticed relevant media reports and is closely following developments.”But behind the scenes there is a sense of shock and dismay in Beijing, officials and experts say: if indeed Kim Jong Nam was assassinated on the orders of the North Korean leader, it would be seen as an affront to the country that has afforded him protection for many years.

“China’s inner circle of government is highly nervous about this,” said Wang Weimin, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“Kim Jong Nam’s assassination makes China more aware of how unpredictable and cruel the current North Korean regime is, as well as Kim Jong Un’s willingness to abandon China and sell it for his own benefit at any second.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-china-a-sense-of-betrayal-after-the-assassination-of-kim-jong-nam/2017/02/17/434d7626-f4f0-11e6-8873-a962f11835fb_story.html?utm_term=.b193301e7301

Russia send shockwaves to the West as Putin unveils new fighter jet in terrifying clip

RUSSIA has released footage of an advanced fighter-jet capable of travelling at more than twice the speed of sound.

The thunderous jet performs a striking demonstration of what the Su-35S is capable of.In the dramatic footage, released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, the pilot can be seen jumping into he deadly machine before shooting off into the sky.

As it speeds through the air, the pilot twists the jet with chilling manoeuvres as blasts through the air.

As the jet touches down a parachute shoots out to help it slow after reaching speeds of up to 1,500mph in the sky.

Russia fighter jetRUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

The jet has the ability to rip through the air at around 1,500mph

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/768452/Russia-send-shockwaves-west-unveil-new-fighter-jet

Turkey says almost taken Syria’s Bab, war monitor cites heavy toll

By Tulay Karadeniz and Angus McDowall | ANKARA/BEIRUT

Turkey’s military said on Friday it was close to taking Syria’s al-Bab from Islamic State, but a war monitor said the jihadists still controlled 90 percent of the town itself and that shelling and air strikes had killed dozens of civilians in recent days.

Al-Bab, an Islamic State stronghold 30 km (20 miles) from the Turkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion last August to push the jihadists from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia also fighting them.

Taking control of the town would deepen Turkish influence in an area of Syria where it has already effectively created a buffer zone and allow Turkish forces to press on towards Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

“The operation to gain complete control of the al-Bab region has neared its end and the resistance of the Daesh terror group has largely been broken,” the Turkish military statement said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization that monitors the war using a network of contacts, said Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” forces had not made much progress.

Islamic State still controls 90 percent of al-Bab town itself and Turkish shelling and air strikes had killed 45 civilians, including 18 children, during the past 48 hours, the Observatory said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-idUSKBN15W0PQ

Iran Reaches Lease Financing Deal For 77 Boeing, Airbus Planes

I write about business and economics in the Middle East

Details of the deal remain opaque at this stage and it is not clear who it has been signed with or when it will come into force. However, it is likely to be just the first of several large contracts in the coming weeks and months.

Tehran has signed deals for 100 planes from Airbus, a further 80 from Boeing and 40 turboprops from French/Italian manufacturer ATR. Local airlines have also held discussions with Russia’s Sukhoi and Brazil’s Embraer. All of the deals need to be financed in some way.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2017/02/17/iran-lease-finance-boeing-airbus/#5ff649163c51

Israel warns Hezbollah after threats to hit reactor

Israel warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Thursday against attacking the Jewish state after the leader of the Iranian-backed militant group threatened to strike its nuclear reactor.

The comments by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah marked the first time his group explicitly threatened to target the reactor in the southern Israeli town of Dimona.

Israel and Hezbollah battled to a stalemate during a month-long war in the summer of 2006. The war broke out after Hezbollah gunmen crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. The ensuing conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis before ending in a United Nations-brokered cease-fire.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hezbollah-state-israel-palestine-peace-45534607

Israeli soldiers hit in cyberespionage campaign using Android malware

More than 100 soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces had their Android phones infected with malware by a cyberespionage group

The attack campaign started in July and continues to date, according to researchers from antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab, who cooperated in the investigation with the IDF Information Security Department.

The Israeli soldiers were lured via Facebook Messenger and other social networks by hackers who posed as attractive women from various countries like Canada, Germany, and Switzerland. The victims were tricked into installing a malicious Android application, which then scanned the phone and downloaded another malicious app that masqueraded as an update for one of the already installed applications.

http://www.cio.com/article/3171267/security/israeli-soldiers-hit-in-cyberespionage-campaign-using-android-malware.html

Grenade-dropping jihadist death drones are ‘insidious’ threat in Iraq – general

As the intense fighting to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul continues, Major General Rupert Jones has warned of the “insidious” threat posed by the low-tech aerial attacks employed alongside more conventional methods.

The enemy has tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate back into the east of the city and has indiscriminately fired mortars, rockets and artillery into liberated areas on more than 300 occasions in the last week with a characteristic disdain for human life,” he said in a briefing from Baghdad seen by the Daily Mail.

This tactic, together with their continued use of off-the-shelf commercial drones is all they have left with which to attack the east as they await their fate.

https://www.rt.com/uk/377684-iraq-mosul-isis-drones/

Will the US leave Syrian Kurdish partners for Turkey?

U.S. Chief of Joint Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford is set to visit Turkey on Feb. 17. Following the Feb. 9 visit of CIA head Michael Pompeo, Dunford is the second high-ranking U.S. official’s visit to Turkey, as part of a Middle Eastern tour.

As Pompeo’s visit was announced after a telephone conversation between President Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump, the Dunford visit was announced after a meeting between Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Feb. 15 on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels.

After Dunford’s discussions with Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar on Feb. 18, more high-ranking discussions are expected to take place between the two NATO allies: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to meet in Munich on Feb. 18 during the annual Munich Security Conference.

There is one single issue in common in all those meetings. The Turkish government wants to convince the U.S. administration to change its fighting partner in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) before Trump announces his country’s new strategy on it. Trump has given a 30-day deadline to the Pentagon to draft a new anti-ISIL strategy, with the date set to expire on Feb. 28.

Turkey says the fighting partner of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is the Syrian sister of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. for many years. It was thanks to CIA support that the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was able to capture the PKK’s founding leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in 1999. Now Ankara is telling Washington that it was “wrong to fight a terrorist organization with the help of another one” and that if they end the collaboration with the PYD, the Turkish army and the Turkey-backed Free Syria Army (FSA) will join the U.S. to deliver a coup de grace to ISIL at their headquarters in Raqqa.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/will-the-us-leave-syrian-kurdish-partners-for-turkey.aspx?PageID=238&NID=109851&NewsCatID=409

German parents told to destroy Cayla dolls over hacking fears

An official watchdog in Germany has told parents to destroy a talking doll called Cayla because its smart technology can reveal personal data.

The warning was issued by the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), which oversees telecommunications.

Researchers say hackers can use an insecure bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it.

Manufacturer Genesis Toys has not yet commented on the German warning.

The Vivid Toy group, which distributes My Friend Cayla, has previously said that examples of hacking were isolated and carried out by specialists. However, it said the company would take the information on board as it was able to upgrade the app used with the doll.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39002142

Turkish imam spy affair in Germany extends across Europe

A German investigation into Turkey’s religious officials collecting information on its enemies may be the tip of the iceberg. DW has obtained several documents revealing Turkish activities in Germany and European states.

Stuttgart DiTiB-Moschee (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Naupold)

German police on Wednesday raided the homes of four imams alleged to have spied on the opposition for the Turkish government. The police action is part of an investigation into what documents obtained by DW show to be a broader Turkish effort to collect information across Europe on supporters of the religious movement Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.

The raids targeted the homes of four Turkish imams affiliated with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.

The Federal Prosecutors Office (GBA) said in a statement no arrests were made in the raids in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Pfalz, which aimed to collect evidence into imams conducting alleged espionage against supporters of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.

The prosecutor’s office said the reason for the raids was related to a September order from Diyanet, a religious body tied to the Turkish prime ministry, for imams to pass information to diplomatic missions on Gulen supporters.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-imam-spy-affair-in-germany-extends-across-europe/a-37590672

NATO: Russia targeted German army with fake news campaign

Emails accusing German soldiers stationed in Lithuania of rape were sent to local news outlets and the parliamentary president. NATO officials allege that Russia is targeting the military alliance.

Litauen Bundeswehrsoldaten landen in Kaunas (picture-alliance/AP Images/M. Kulbis)

German soldiers stationed in Lithuania have been the target of false rape claims, German news magazine “Spiegel” first reported on Thursday. NATO diplomats told Spiegel that they viewed this as an attack aimed at undermining the presence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Eastern Europe, likely perpetrated by Russia.

Emails claiming that German soldiers had raped an underage Lithuanian girl were sent to the president of the Lithuanian parliament and various Lithuanian media outlets on February 14.

Lithuanian authorities investigated the charges and found no evidence that any of the claims made in the emails were true. “To our knowledge, Lithuanian police investigations came to the conclusion that there were neither a victim nor possible witnesses nor any perpetrators”, a spokesperson for the German ministry of defense said.

Some smaller local news outlets reported on the charges, according to Spiegel, but Lithuanian officials quickly discounted the accusations.

Lithuanian police is investigating the incident. The address from which the emails accusing the soldiers were sent no longer exists, according to the German defense ministry, but authorities are looking to track the IP-address.

http://www.dw.com/en/nato-russia-targeted-german-army-with-fake-news-campaign/a-37591978

NATO, Finland deepen cooperation on cyber defense

NATO and Finland on Thursday signed a political framework agreement on cyber defense cooperation that will allow them to better protect and strengthen their networks.

“We look forward to enhancing our situational awareness and exchanging best practices with Finland, including through dedicated points of contact for rapid information exchange on early warning information and lessons learned,” Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, said.

http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/319872-nato-finland-deepen-cooperation-on-cyber-defense

Libya requests NATO help to rebuild security institutions

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO’s chief says he has received a formal request from conflict-torn Libya to help strengthen its security institutions and that the alliance is looking into exactly what can be done.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the 28 allies could help build up the Libyan defense ministry and military command structure.

He told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels that “Libya needs that framework to be able to develop the forces and stabilize the country.”]

Stoltenberg didn’t say when the effort might start or what exactly it might entail.

http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/news-wire/libya-requests-nato-help-to-rebuild-security-institutions/article_6053d834-8f9e-5cce-831a-33945f4cfac1.html

Melted Nuclear Fuel Search Proceeds One Dead Robot at a Time

  • Third robot abandoned in search of fuel at Japan’s Fukushima
  • Melted fuel still needs to be located before removal begins

The latest robot seeking to find the 600 tons of nuclear fuel and debris that melted down six year ago in Japan’s wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant met its end in less than a day.

The scorpion-shaped machine, built by Toshiba Corp., entered the No. 2 reactor core Thursday and stopped 3 meters (9.8 feet) short of a grate that would have provided a view of where fuel residue is suspected to have gathered. Two previous robots aborted similar missions after one got stuck in a gap and another was abandoned after finding no fuel in six days.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-17/race-for-japan-s-melted-nuclear-fuel-leaves-trail-of-dead-robots

Exclusive: Japan to speed up frigate build to reinforce East China Sea – sources

By Nobuhiro Kubo | TOKYO

Japan plans to accelerate a warship building program to make two frigates a year to patrol the fringes of the East China Sea, where it disputes island ownership with China, three people with knowledge of the plan said.

Japan previously was building one 5,000-ton class destroyer a year, but will now make two 3,000-ton class ships a year, beginning from the April 2018 fiscal year, the people said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to the media.

It aims to produce a fleet of eight of the new class of smaller, cheaper vessels, which may also have mine-sweeping and anti-submarine capability.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-navy-frigates-idUSKBN15W13S

Spy network active in region (Malaysia)

PETALING JAYA: North Korean spies have been operating in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia over the last two decades.

According to an intelligence source, their operation in the three countries is believed to be one of the biggest networks outside North Korea, with Malaysia and Singapore being the preferred choice of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).

The RGB is North Korea’s intelligence agency which manages the country’s clandestine operations.

To blend in and disguise themselves in Malaysia and Singapore, the highly qualified spies would double-up as engineers and technical consultants in the construction industry, and also operate Korean restaurants.

“They used the restaurants as a main front to conduct intelligence gathering and surveillance, targeting Japanese and South Korean poli­ticians, diplomats, top corporate figures and businessmen who visited or were based in these countries,” the source said.

The RGB comes under the jurisdiction of the North Korean State Security Department or State Security Ministry and reports directly to the supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/02/17/spy-network-active-in-region-north-koreas-rgb-spread-wings-over-last-two-decades/#RllGpAkZA2OTLJTd.99

China Blacklists Carfentanil, Closing A Deadly Loophole

AP

The drug is so strong and deadly, it’s been researched as a chemical weapon of warfare; police officers are warned to handle it with extreme care. The opioid carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine — but until now, it hasn’t been a controlled substance in China, where producers have been exporting it abroad.

U.S. officials are welcoming the news that China will now list carfentanil as a controlled substance, putting it in the same category as fentanyl — the less powerful opioid of which carfentanil is a variant. Fentanyl was blamed for the death of Prince last year.

Potent and addictive, fentanyl and carfentanil have played deadly roles in the opioid epidemic that has swept the U.S. and killed thousands of Americans in recent years, as the drugs have been mixed into heroin or used to create an alternative to that less powerful drug. From 2010 to 2014, officials say, heroin overdoses more than tripled in the U.S. — and part of the problem, they add, is that drug users may not realize how strong the adulterated drugs are.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/16/515544874/china-blacklists-carfentanil-closing-a-deadly-loophole

 

US and Russia agree to boost military communications: Pentagon

The US and Russian militaries agree to “enhance communications” after a meeting between their top commanders in Azerbaijan on Thursday, the Pentagon says.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford and his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov discuss military relations between the two countries as well as security in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere during their meeting in the capital Baku.

The two sides “have undertaken efforts to improve operational safety of military activities in order to decrease the prospects for crisis and avoid the risk of unintended incidents,” the Pentagon says in a statement. “The leaders further agreed to enhance communications on such stabilizing measures.”

The United States and Russia already maintain a permanent military communications line over their air operations in Syria to avoid incidents between their aircraft.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/us-and-russia-agree-to-boost-military-communications-pentagon/

 

 

A Chip Flaw Strips Away Hacking Protections for Millions of Devices

FOR THE LAST decade or so, hackers have faced a daunting challenge when they try to break into a computer: Even when they get malicious code running on a victim’s machine, they have to figure out where in the computer’s memory that code has ended up. That’s because a security protection used in Windows, Android, and every other modern operating system randomizes where programs run in a device’s memory. It turns the process of digital intrusion into something like an attempt to burglarize a house in total darkness.

But now a team of Dutch researchers has found a technique that undermines that so-called address space layout randomization, creating the You Are Here arrow that hackers need to orient themselves inside a stranger’s computer. That means any of the common memory corruption bugs found in software applications on a daily basis could lead to a much deeper takeover of a target PC or smartphone. And because the attack exploits not software but hardware, it leaves millions of devices at risk regardless of their operating system—and it can’t be fully fixed with any mere software update.

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/flaw-millions-chips-strips-away-key-hacking-defense-software-cant-fully-fix/

 

 

Dopo le forti dichiarazioni del Segretario alla Difesa americano, Jim Mattis, in occasione della riunione della Nato a Bruxelles lo scorso 15 febbraio, pubblichiamo un’anteprima dell’articolo di Stephen Bryen, già Sottosegretario alla Difesa ed ex Presidente di Finmeccanica Nord America, che comparirà nel numero in uscita del Nodo di Gordio “Le Tre Torri. Usa, Cina e Russia: i tre poli dello scacchiere geopolitico”. Il saggio di Bryen anticipa la nuova strategia relativa all’Alleanza Atlantica della nuova Amministrazione di Donald Trump.

La NATO combatterà? E per cosa?

di Stephen Bryen *

L’unica cosa di cui sono certo è che i Russi possono fare la differenza. Conoscono abbastanza bene l’entità e la capacità delle forze NATO dispiegate negli Stati Baltici e in Polonia, e sanno che la NATO, nonostante la recente frenetica attività e l’invio di carri armati e armamenti, è molto lontana dall’essere pronta. I Russi hanno scelto di fare pressione sull’area Baltica e persino su Finlandia e Svezia (entrambe fuori dall’Alleanza NATO) soprattutto per rivelare la vulnerabilità della NATO e metterne in dubbio la pretesa di proteggere i propri membri più recenti.

http://www.nododigordio.org/in-evidenza/bryen-la-nato-combattera-e-per-cosa/

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The Spy & The Mobile Phone

by Stephen Bryen

An American, Ryan Christopher Fogle, working as a third secretary in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was arrested by Russian security police and subsequently deported.  The arrest, featuring photos of the man pushed to the ground and wearing a bizarre wig, and other snapshots of his interrogation, along with other wigs, cash in envelopes, a compass, a flashlight, three different sunglasses, a Moscow map atlas, a letter in Russian, an RFID shield, and a knife have raised numerous questions.  The Washington Post said there was something “fishy” about the case, and CBS News and others commented that the mobile phone Fogle was ostensibly carrying was very old and did not have any smart phone features.

We have no idea if this is the usual kit of CIA spies.  One can argue that all of it was planted on Fogle and because he was a CIA operative, it did not really matter.  Certainly the CIA was not going to comment, one way or the other.  Secret services neither confirm nor deny.
 
While we have no inside knowledge on Fogle and the case the Russians are making, two items caught our attention.
 
The first was the RFID “sleeve.”  This is a metallic sleeve into which you can put a passport, an ID badge and credit cards.  Once inside, external snooping devices cannot read the passport, driver’s license, ID or credit cards because the sleeve shields them from electromagnetic waves.  You can buy these online and they are recommended for protecting your ID and your credit card information. It would make sense for a spy to have a sleeve like this.
 
The second was a mobile phone, a very simple phone without the data channels and fancy screens of modern smart phones.  Why would a spy use a simple phone?
 
The reason is that a simple phone is harder to track than a smart phone.  Such a phone would lack the WIFI, Bluetooth and GPS features of a smart phone, it would contain very little information, and it is likely the SIM card (that authorizes the phone) was under some fake name.  So the agent or spy would be able to operate without being easily tracked.  In fact, it seems the Russians were able to grab him because he set up a meeting with his Russian target, and when he went to him he was grabbed by the Russian FSB security police.  
 
Even so, the Russian security people were able to record a phone conversation with the target, because the target tipped them off.  The offer of up to $1 million to spy for the United States did not turn the target into a cooperating resource.
 
Fogle also supposedly offered the source a way to communicate through Gmail but to do so either with a “clean” mobile phone or a “clean” laptop computer, which according to news reports, the CIA was willing to pay for if not purchase.  He recommended using an Internet cafe as a way of improving on anonymity.   While such cafes may be useful in places such as Pakistan (where terrorists use them), in Moscow one can be reasonably sure that anyone entering such a place is photographed and ID’d.  So this proposal should go into the category of “stupid.”
 
In any case, we still can’t be sure that Fogle wasn’t set up and that there isn’t “something fishy” about the whole thing.  But what the Russians have put on the table so far also makes sense. Be careful with your smart phone.
 
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A Question About The Bomb Making Magazine

NBC has published an important article (http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/26/17932143-exclusive-government-doc-shows-how-closely-boston-marathon-bombers-followed-al-qaeda-plans?lite) that says the Boston terrorists followed the bomb making advice of the al-Qaeda online magazine, ironically called Inspire.

Inspire Al Qaeda Magazine

Inspire Al Qaeda Magazine

The article, called “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom,” outlines a scheme using pressure cookers, igniters, and shrapnel just as done by the Boston Marathon bombers.

But here is a question.

Since 2001 at least, the U.S. government has been doing everything it can to destroy al-Qaeda.  It is an open question whether the billions we have spent so far has done the job.  It is true we got rid of Bin Laden and a bunch of his henchmen and operatives.  But al-Qaeda remains a force in many places, including the Arabian Peninsula and north Africa, and in the Middle East as we now see (again) in Iraq and Syria.

There are many reasons why al-Qaeda persists –it appeals to a significant segment of Islamic radicals and so seems to have little problem recruiting replacements for the terrorists we have managed to kill or capture.  Another reason is that some governments are protecting the al-Qaeda operation –you can guess who they are by remembering who was behind 9/11.

al Qaed on the Arabian Peninsula

al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula

So we have a self-regenerating, government(s) protected organization wreaking havoc.  And they publish a magazine on the web that tells their potential and actual recruits how to kill innocent people.

Why, then, does the United States with all its cyber fighting capability, and the billions we are spending on both defensive and “offensive” operations, not take down the al-Qaeda (and affiliates) web sites?

There is no reason for Inspire to be allowed to stay online.  You can listen to all the excuses you want –such as they will just put up another site, we learn who goes to the site and it gives us counter terrorism leads, etc.  Don’t believe any of the muck.  If it was at all true, the guys in Boston would long ago have been in jail.  Even the Russians, with countless pleas to the FBI and CIA, could not get anything done.

The fact is we have really poor leadership in Washington, who don’t act when they should, and can’t get off their rear ends to come up with a strategy that gets much beyond sending in the drones.

Well you can’t use drones in Boston, and you should not let al-Qaeda dominate in the public communications space.  Surely someone in Washington can figure this out.

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Who Is Behind the Gauss Virus?

by Stephen Bryen

The Kaspersky Labs, based in Moscow and well regarded, says that it has uncovered a computer virus that targeted banks in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and in Israel.  While not saying “who” invented the Gauss virus, Kaspersky makes the case that the new virus, called Gauss, is closely linked to the Stuxnet and Flame virus.  Supposed leaks to the New York Times finger the CIA and Israel as the sponsors of Stuxnet.

There is always a little more than suspicion that should accompany any, and all, such declarations.

Stuxnet, as is now understood, focused on the controller systems of Iranian centrifuges.  The Stuxnet infection caused the centrifuges to operate erratically defeating their ability to extract bomb-grade uranium from uranium hexafloride gas.  (An interesting sidelight is that the Iranian centrifuges are derived from a European design, and the controllers and other electronics, as well as the special materials, come from Europe and appear to be in ample supply.)

But is Gauss really a “son of Sam” type virus?

Kaspersky Labs, through its Secure List Blog says:

 We believe the theory that Gauss is used to steal money which are used to finance other projects such as Flame and Stuxnet is not compatible with the idea of nation-state sponsored attacks.

If the Secure List Blog is right, and if we accept that the Gauss is similar to Stuxnet and Flame as the Lab insists, then suspicion is thrown on the original claimed sourcing of Stuxnet and Flame –e.g., that these viruses were a CIA-Israeli deal.

For what it is worth, cooperation between the U.S. and Israel on Iran has been poor, if not worse.  The CIA for the past decade has insisted the Iranians are not close to having a nuclear weapon, and even in the most recent admission that the Iranians are closer than the previous CIA estimate, the CIA is still very far apart from the public Israeli assessment. Furthermore, the administration has very strongly opposed not only physical intervention against Iran, but the administration has taken a strictly hands off approach, and has not supported the Iranian opposition or encouraged regime change (something they were glad to do in Egypt, Libya and Syria and strongly hinted at in other countries like Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain).

So believing the CIA and Israel actually cooperated on Stuxnet or anything else seems hard to believe.  And the so-called leaks had plenty of political motive for President Obama, who has been trying to tell the American Jewish community that he is the best friend Israel ever had.

We also note that Russian cyber-thieves have been looting banks around the world for years.   Clearly the cyber thieves had at their disposal the resources to carry out these thefts.

Could it be that all these viruses come from Russia instead of Israel or the CIA, or alternatively that there is an under-the-table deal between Israel and Russia to secretly block Iran’s nuclear programs instead of a collaboration between Israel and the CIA?

Israel’s relationship with Russia sometimes looks better than the relationship with the U.S.  After all, President Putin found time to visit Israel and his visit was positive, even in the midst of the Syrian civil war.  President Obama has not gone to Israel during his presidency.

Oddly, given that Kaspersky operates in Russia and no doubt has a positive relationship with the Russian government, it is very strange they would take the lead in exposing the Gauss virus if Gauss had any conceivable link to the Russian government.  But politics is always a process, not a fixity, and things change rapidly.  Maybe the Russians are starting to worry that Israel really will hit Iran and they are sending them a message?   (Kaspersky brags about how “good” parts of the Gauss virus really is.  Would they be touting Israeli skills or Russian skills?  Or neither?)

So while the Gauss virus origins remains unknown,  the suggestion that it is linked to Israel and the CIA can probably be ruled out.   The rest we really don’t know.

 

 

 

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