Archive for the ‘GWOT’ Category

Washington Post series “Top Secret America”

The Washington Post started a multi-part series of articles today about the growth of “Top Secret America” since the 9/11 attacks.

Some are worried that their little fiefdoms will be exposed – and a memo supposedly went out warning Contractor’s to confirm nothing once the article came out.

Apparently there was concern about the map that is part of the web site – and besides the fact that you can’t go closer than city (and in some places that is still enough to pin point a location) – but you have to realize that any airport that has TSA and/or Custom Border Protection – will be marked on a map (and counted in the statistics).

You can argue the merits of this article either way;
– the public has a right to know how it money is being spent/wasted in this bureaucracy
– this article provides insight to our enemies that there are gaps that could be exploited
– the fact the current administration hasn’t curtailed the growth shows that they feel the need for this continued level of security (but don’t have a better way of doing it)

One way or another – it will be worth it to keep an eye on this series to see what plays out (and if any thing gets fixed after it all is brought to light).

 

Incursions 1

It has not been a very good day for Muslims.

 

In Somalia, the BBC reported, a 33-year-old man was stoned to death for adultery.  Witnesses reported seeing blood spouting from his head during approximately seven continuous minutes of stoning, before the man finally died. While this may not raise too many eyebrows, try this one on:  the girl – presumably younger – who is pregnant with the man’s child, has been sentenced to death as well, as soon as she gives birth.  Still not strong enough for you? Last year they stoned to death another girl for the same thing.  She was 13.

 

On the other side of the world, a U.S. Army Major reportedly started shooting at a military base, killing 13 and injuring 28 others in a spree apparently prompted by his upcoming orders to go to Afghanistan.  See it coming? That’s right, the Major was Muslim.  Not only that, but he was a devout, practicing Muslim, born in America to Palestinian parents. He was reportedly wearing full religious clothing at the time of the shooting, and was heard screaming the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great] before he started shooting.

 

Not a good day for Muslims at all.

 

Islam is not, of course, the only religion to suffer from prejudice caused by a few bad apples… or even the only group. Intermountain west Mormons are all branded as closet polygamists thanks to the FLDS matter last year.  Catholic leaders are all suspected of being closet molesters, thanks to the failures of a few.  Even your regular law enforcement officer is disliked by most, even though most people don’t even know any officers personally.

 

However, you won’t find a police department that has a published goal of killing everyone who isn’t an officer like them.

 

The incidents in Somalia prove that religious fervor trumps law and morality with almost no contest. The incident at Fort Hood shows that religious belief trumps loyalty to country, patriotism, and military order – again with almost no contest.  And while there are many religious groups that could be called "fervent", none of them link that fervor with global killings as easily as radical Muslims apparently do.

 

Of course, the Major’s family is claiming that he was "being harassed" because of his religion. But it’s quickly becoming clear that the shooting wasn’t about harassment. The Major didn’t kill the people who were harassing him. He opened fire in a public area of Fort Hood – just down the hall from a graduation ceremony for new soldiers! Make no mistake – this was no victim of harassment. This was a man who wanted to punish others for daring to try to send him to Afghanistan. And he accomplished this punishment using indirect yet highly effective means: killing innocents.  Which is, if I’m not mistaken, a rather common thread in the world of radical Islam.

 

One soldier at Fort Hood pointed out that this was going to make everyone look at Muslims – and especially Muslim soldiers – in a more negative light.  Indeed it will, and should. Because nobody ever thought that the Muslim Major could kill at least 13 people in cold blood… until after he actually did it.  This is not a case of prejudice. Judgement wasn’t passed until after the act occurred.  As long as people choose to associate with a group noted for their willingness and eagerness to enforce their religious views with violence, those people will be subject to deeper scrutiny.  Because it is from that group of people that the threats clearly and consistently seem to emerge.

 

Somali Islamists claim to have shot down US drone

According to the BBC – the Somali Islamist’s have shot down a US drone of the Somali coast.

And this is exactly why a drone is supposed to go into area’s that would normally be questionable for a manned aircraft. Without a crew being killled or captured – there is little chance for a politically minded escalation.

[this story might not make CNN – because no one in the US seems to care about Somalia any more. Which will just about guarantee that this is the next global hotspot.]

 

Air Force shoots down its own Reaper

According to reports over on Ares (Aviation Week’s blog site) – the US Air Force had to shoot down one of their own Reaper’s – after communication/control over the UAV was lost and it was about to leave Afghan airspace.

I wonder whose airspace it was about to violate – when they took it out?

 

Now, Big Brother IS Watching

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The news of the day was at once innocuous, and stunning:  The BBC reported that Internet Service Providers in the European Union were now under government mandate to log their users’ email messages and internet telephone calls.  Although the mandate does not require ISPs to store the contents of the email, or a recording of the call, it certainly doesn’t forbid it either… and whether such additional records exist ot not, the law on its face it does allow for the monitoring of communications between individuals, and the establishment of "connections" and/or relationships therefrom.

The ways in which this data could be used are many, and the ways in which it could be misused are there as well.  And there are inconsistencies in the announcement that beg for clarification.  For example, the UK Home Office said that "effective safeguards are in place and … the data can only be accessed when it is necessary and proportionate to do so", which implies that the data would only be used to solve crimes as an investigative tool.

But in almost the same breath, they justify this law by saying that "Communications data … plays a vital part in … prevention of terrorist attacks, as well as contributing to public safety more generally."  Prevention?  Contributing to safety generally?  This is a broad mandate that tells the true story: The EU government intends to engage in data-based profiling.  Who you call, or who calls you – even accidentally – now determines who you are.  You might become flagged as a terrorist without ever knowing it, until it’s too late.

For those who might roll their eyes at such a prediction, one need only look back at the lessons of history. The advances of technology are increasing rapidly – even exponentially.  The assumptions about the fabric of our world, which we have grown up with, which we have indoctrinated ourselves with, are turning out to be, if not false, certainly flimsy, and falling away rapidly. Consider the concept of identity theft.  Try explaining identity theft to a "you" of 20 years ago.  Even 10 years ago, this was relatively unheard-of.  Now, an entire industry exists to "serve" the "victims" of identity theft.  And now, a new portion of your identity – your political and ideological affiliations – are up for grabs… or at least interpretation.

What the EU government is doing with communications data is clearly akin to what the US government did in the 1970s with credit reporting.  Called the "Fair Credit Reporting Act", this set of laws codified how credit data could be gathered and used. When words like "Fair" and "Consumer Protection" are used, we automatically assume safety and "goodness" – it becomes a blind spot – the existence of which is proven by the sheer vastness of the identity theft and credit management industry.

Now, what will we have? Clearly there will be a log showing everyone I email, and everyone who emails me.  There will be a log showing everyone I call, even over the Internet, and everyone who calls me.  And since it’s all data, and is person-to-person data (as opposed to person-to-company data reported to credit bureaus), there will be the automatic existence of person-to-person-to-person data.  For example, if terrorist Jim calls the local pub to order a pizza, and I order a pizza from that pub, I will be linked to terrorist Jim. 

And how will I even know this has happened?  Will there be a "terrorist bureau" that I can order my "terrorist report" from?  Will I get a free report each year, from each of the top three "terror reporting agencies?"  What about my "terror score"?  Anything above a 340 and you can be imprisoned for 7 days without cause, you know.

This codification of data gathering, and its stated purposes, are, in this author’s opinion, one of the biggest threats to freedom we have ever seen.  The BBC report quotes a citizen as saying this only got passed by "stretching the law". 

It’s easy to see why.

 

Will the Raptop production stop?


Raptor_Airshow-2

Originally uploaded by Lockheed Martin

The President has a decision to make by this weekend. Whether or not to start shutting down the production of the F-22 Raptor, or to buy some additional planes.

It is a decisive issue – not just for the military and the government, but also the economy;

  • It is the most expensive fighter plane ($191 million apiece) ever
  • It has no use in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • Service Chiefs want more
  • DOD needs to cut new acquisition programs to fund on-going combat operations
  • Congress supports buying more
  • Allies (Australia and Japan) want to buy it
  • Suppliers or factories for the plane are in 44 of 50 states
  • Estimates are 40,000 people would be affected by shutdown of program

Read the entire story – on USAToday.com.

 

What a Sniper feels….


Funny Sniper

Originally uploaded by pablolopez26

 

[UPDATED] Red Bear Rising

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After years of living with the Cold War, many of us were surprised and chagrined to see Russia’s more relaxed, apparently friendly stance towards the world.  For a while, Russia almost dropped off the news map, as Russia became rather self-absorbed with their charismatic new leader, Vladimir Putin.  Clearly, however, that was not a time of narcissicsm; rather, it was a time of internal growth, stabilization, and unification. And it seems, now, that we may be starting to see the fruits of that growth.

Most of the world knows about the gas row in Ukraine last month, resulting in the cut off of Russian natural gas to the EU.   Not to mention the whole conflict with Georgia that was in the news last year. These incidents represent a much more aggressive stance than that which we’ve experienced from our global neighbor in past years.

Indeed, the indications seem to be that Russia is trying to return to what it perceives as its remembered time of greatness as a world leader.

Consider:

  • Last week, when the EU hinted about concerns over the murders of two Russians who were speaking out against the government, Russia responded not by trying to deny, feign ignorance, or cover up, but rather by accusing the EU of its own human rights abuses.
  • And today, Nikolai Bordyuzha, former KGB leader who is now the general secretary of the ODKB (or, in western alphabet, CSTO – think: Russian version of NATO), announced that Russia and its allies will be creating a joint-air defense system of its own, running the entire breadth of Russia, and encompassing Belarus, and most likely the other member countries of the ODKB.

For a long time, Russia has directed anger at NATO, condeming it for both its actions and for being what Russia calls “a puppet of the U.S.”  Now it seems Russia wants to play the same game.  Given the growing desire of Russia to return to the world stage, combined with the continuning problems in the middle east, and the ongoing struggles in Europe, the ODKB (which indicated some time ago that they would welcome an application from Iran to join its ranks) may well be a much larger player in the coming months and years.

Not to mention Russia itself.

UPDATE – Threat Watcher here – and let’s not forget the sudden development that Kyrgyzstan is closing Manas Airbase to the US.  Don’t know where Kyrgyzstan is?  Or why this is important?  Manas is the primary US supply point for getting men and material (food, bullets, etc) in and out of Afghanistan.

According to the New York Times;

The United States has leased the Central Asian base since after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, but American officials said they believed that Russia was using an offer of more than $2 billion in loans and grants to Kyrgyzstan to force the United States out of the region, colloquially referred to as “the Stans.”

Now that the Russian economy is back on its feet (thanks to sales of gas & petroleum to the West), the Russians can reassert control over the former Soviet Republics via ‘soft’ power.  No longer does the Kremlin need to deploy a Guards Shock Army to maintain power – all they have to do is to keep the money flowing.

 

Afghaniraq?

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As one ThreatAxis member makes last minute preparations tonight before departing to Afghanistan tomorrow, this correspondent has been given to wonder about the apparent attempts of the United States to focus more on Afghanistan… and less on Iraq.

Media and other groups around the world are just beginning to notice this trend.  Ever a leader, the BBC reported on this very issue, outlining several of the problems faced by the United States and its allies during the coming months.

The issue is twofold. First, Iraq. There can be no doubt that the war in Iraq was grim. Former President George W. Bush sacrificed his own political career and reputation being what he was supposed to be: a leader listening to his people. Americans have quickly and conveniently forgotten that they are all complicit in the Iraq war to some degree: On September 12th, 2001, everyone was calling for retribution, and crying out in favor of war.  Regardless of any political niggling that may have come later, regardless of perceptions about weapons of mass destruction, President Bush did not push America into war.  America pushed the President into war.

And into war they went.  Iraq is now ostensibly “free” – free of its tyrranical and genocidial dictator, at least – but the official analysis of the security situation there remains “fragile, reversible, and uneven” throughout Iraq.  This key phrase says it all. Right or wrong, the United States went in to Iraq, and this brings with it responsibility to do what is possible to rebuild the nation for its innocent civilians.  The dictator was evil, the terrorists were obviously there… but the civilians were still innocent.  The people who are yammering for their “troops to come home” are the same irresponsible yet ultimately responsible people who were screaming for war and retribution seven years ago.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Trident – last of the UK deterrent force?


HMS_Vanguard_DD06B

Originally uploaded by Frank Bennett.

In the next 10-15 years – the Trident D-5 SLBM deterrent force for both the US (Ohio-class) and the UK (Vanguard-class) will be approaching the end of their service lives.

In the UK, the government got approval from the House of Commons in March of 2007 to spend between 15 and 20 billion Pounds on a new class of submarines to continue to maintain a submarine launched deterrence.

Even though this program was approved, some former senior British military officers have recently come out and said the Trident replacement is ‘irrelevant’ and would prefer to see the money spent on conventional forces (which are more useful in today’s War on Terrorism).

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Global Hawk – High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV

Earlier this summer – Military.com/DefenseTech.org published a story saying the Air Force was not ready to retire the U-2 in favor of the Global Hawk.

The key argument – was that the U-2 could collect more info during a single flight – due to a larger payload and more electrical power (more sensors) – than the Global Hawk.

The Pentagon has said it will not retire the U-2 at least until the Global Hawk Block 30, which will carry the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload, is flying.

According to a Northrup-Grumman press release back in January 2008 – the first Block 40 fuselage was supposed to come off the assembly line back in September.

The fact that the Air Force transferred two early model Global Hawk’s to NASA earlier this year – seems to indicate that that some serious fuselage changes are needed for the later modifications (and that these changes cannot be retrofitted to the earlier models).

Additionally – the on again off again potential sale of the Global Hawk to Korea – maybe back on again. I bet it will only be a Block 20…..

 

Ahoy! Pirates! [UPDATED]

Why is this situation not getting the attention it deserves?

As long as the pirates can keep funnelling money to support the radicals destabilizing Somalia – there will be a safe haven for terror.  There is no way that the Somali government (if one still exists) can even compete when you are talking about the radicals getting millions of dollars in ransom for each ship.

Stop the pirates and you have a chance to restore order to Somalia.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Piracy off of Africa

Two things to mention;

1) Why doesn’t someone just slip a platoon of Marines on a random ship entering the hazard area – and if the pirates bite it will be a short little firefight.  And the world will be short one pirate gang.  There is a reason that the phrase ‘the Shores of Tripoli‘ is in the Marine Hymn.  Maybe it is time to remind some of that fact.

2) Why hasn’t any mainstream media picked up on this mystery Iranian ship that was seized by the pirates – that has caused the pirates that searched the ship to fall ill and die.   Because everyone realizes that the US is in no position to take on any one right now.  A detailed investigation of this ship is a long shot – and in all likelyhood – a Pandora’s box that no one wants to open.  Instead everyone is focusing on a ship full of T-72’s (that the pirates admit – they don’t want).

 

Ammo – Cannister/Case

(this subject is near and dear to a close friend’s heart (and trigger finger) so I thought I would explain what it actually is for readers who aren’t familiar with it)

From Wikipedia;

Canister shot (or case-shot) was a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. It was similar to grapeshot in which the canister round’s effect is similar to that of a giant shotgun shell. Canister shot has been used since the advent of gunpowder-firing artillery in Western armies; however, canister (or case) shot saw particularly frequent use on land and at sea in the various wars of the 18th and 19th century.

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The canister round is also known as a case (hence the alternative name of case shot sometimes used for canister shot) and is still used today in modern artillery, particularly in the main armament of tanks. The effect is to turn a large-calibre gun on an armoured fighting vehicle into a giant shotgun. This can be used against enemy infantry even when in proximity to friendly armoured vehicles. The most recent use has been in the 120mm main gun on the American M1 Abrams tank.

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Report: Pentagon misled Congress on NORAD threat

(from the AP – and found on the SF Chronical web page)

(06-16) 23:22 PDT Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP) —

The Pentagon understated the vulnerability faced by the nation’s air and space defense command before it relocated to Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base, a newspaper reported Monday.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command moved from its longtime cave-complex home inside Cheyenne Mountain to Peterson in May. On March 3, military leaders reported to Congress that an assessment of a building at the air base that serves as the nation’s homeland security nerve center found “several physical security problems.”

But The Gazette of Colorado Springs said it obtained a classified document that was even more critical. According to the document, the assessment found “the existing security system at Peterson AFB … would fail if attacked by even a low level threat.”

The assessment was contained in a draft report by the Government Accountability Office as part of an ongoing GAO review of the March 3 report to Congress. That report never informed Congress whether security measures could ensure a maximum level of security at Peterson, as required.

The Peterson command center where NORAD started operating on May 28 requires a Protection Level 1, reserved for “those assets whose loss, theft, destruction, misuse or compromise would result in great harm to the strategic capability of the United States,” the Gazette reported.

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