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The Defense Edge

Panetta Says US Boosting Cyber Defense

October 13th 2012

hacker keyboard

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has revealed some details of U.S. plans to deal with a massive cyber attack. Those plans include launching a possible cyber-offensive in what some analysts say is a message to Iran. With thousands of enemy cyber-actors probing the Pentagon’s systems millions of times a day, the secretary of defense has spoken about the threat of a massive cyber attack before. But his warnings late Thursday in New York have been the strongest yet.

“This is a pre-9/11 moment. The attackers are plotting,” said Panetta.

Panetta said it is no secret that Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities and he said Iran has also undertaken concerted efforts to use cyberspace to its advantage. U.S. officials have blamed Iran for a massive cyberattack two months ago on systems at the Saudi company Aramco and a natural gas company in Qatar. The assault, known as Shamoon, infected 30,000 computers. Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

Were North Korean Nuclear Tests Faked? New Seismic Findings Raise Questions

October 13th 2012

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

This spring, a Swedish scientist sparked international concern with a journal article saying that radioactive particles detected in 2010 showed North Korea had set off at least two small nuclear blasts--possibly in experiments designed to boost the yields of much larger bombs. Shortly after, the pot was stirred with separate claims that some intelligence agencies suspected the detonations were done in cooperation with Iran. Now, a new paper says the tests likely never took place—or that if they did, they were too tiny to have any military significance. The new report, by seismologists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, will be published later this month in the journal Science & Global Security, where the earlier paper also appeared.

It is generally accepted that North Korea has carried out at least two nuclear test explosions, in 2006 and 2009. The Lamont scientists studied both those blasts via the seismic waves they generated. They concluded that the second test—thought to be in the range of about 2 to 4 kilotons—was five times more powerful than the first, though still dwarfed by the weapons of established nuclear powers. (A kiloton equals the explosive energy of 1,000 tons of TNT.) Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Drone Intrusion Over Israel a Reminder of Simmering Regional Tensions

October 12th 2012

Israeli Jet Diving

A small, mysterious unidentified drone quietly made its way into Israeli air space last week. Trailed by two F-16I Israeli fighter jets, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew across southern Israel, after intruding in from the Mediterranean Sea and passing Gaza, possibly in an attempt to blend in with local Israeli drone traffic.

The intruding drone had no explosives attached to it, but was carrying surveillance equipment. As it crossed the northern Negev desert, flying over an uninhabited area, one of the fighter pilots received the order to shoot it down.

Seconds later, a missile fired from the fighter struck the object, and sent burning debris to the ground. Down below, IDF Engineering Corps soldiers were already waiting to collect the pieces and bring them back for analysis.

It's not every day that a hostile drone can be found in Israeli skies. The last time it happened was in 2006, when Hezbollah sent a low-flying explosives-laden UAV toward greater Tel Aviv during the Second Lebanon War. It was intercepted by fighter jets long before it could reach its target. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Iran and Turkey Compete for Middle East Power

October 12th 2012

Assad and Erdogan

As both armies exchanged fire for a week, Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, warned that “the worst case scenario we have all been dreading” was unfolding. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “… we are also not far from war.” Syrian spokesmen sought to stress that Turkish power was looming over the Arab states as a whole from the north. As Turkey began to make political recommendations about the composition of a post-Assad government, Syria’s information minister responded by playing on old Arab fears that Turkey wanted to control the Arab world by naming “the custodians” of Damascus, Mecca, Cairo and Jerusalem. He rebuked Ankara by also remarking: “Turkey is not the Ottoman Sultanate.”

Syria is not alone in looking suspiciously upon the reassertion of Turkish power. On Oct. 2, the Iraqi cabinet decided to annul all agreements which provided the basis of the Turkish military presence in Iraq that has lasted for 16 years. Turkey has maintained bases in Iraq since 1997, as well as armored artillery units. The U.S. military in Iraq provided an important buffer between Iraqi and Turkish forces, especially in the sensitive Kurdistan region. With the U.S. out of Iraq, Turkish forces are now being asked to withdraw. Read more ..

The Cyber Edge

Panetta’s Cyber Warning: ‘This Is a Pre-9/11 Moment’

October 12th 2012

Shadowy Computer User

The Pentagon is mobilizing its cyberwarfare arsenal in preparation for a massive assault on U.S. networks that could “paralyze the nation,” said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11,” Panetta said Oct. 11 in a speech to corporate leaders of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan group.
Panetta, along with Frank J. Bisignano, chief operating officer of JP Morgan Chase & Co., received the BENS Eisenhower Award, following a black-tie dinner at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, in New York City. Hostile network penetrations are nothing new at the Department of Defense, whose 15,000 computer systems are routinely targeted by hackers and industrial spies. But Panetta is now warning that even more destructive cyber weapons are being aimed at the United States. He is directing the Pentagon to begin ramping up network-security efforts, and he is calling on the private sector to help by sharing intelligence about suspected or actual attacks.

The Islamic Winter of Rage

France Confronts Home-Grown Islamist Terrorist Cells

October 12th 2012

french riot police toulouse mar 2012

Following the arrest of a terror cell responsible for planning and executing a grenade attack on a Jewish store in Sarcelles, France, earlier this year, the country’s interior minister has spoken out regarding the threat that homegrown Islamist terrorists pose to all French citizens and French Jews in particular.

“We know that there are dozens, even hundreds of individuals who are capable of organising themselves like the group that has just been dismantled,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said. “Several other similar groups are being watched. There’s a real threat. Radical Islamism…thrives on fantasies, on hatred towards our country and towards French Jews.”

The comments come just days after police raids across France to arrest members of the terror cell responsible for an attack on a kosher grocery store in September. A man named Jeremie Félix Louis-Sidney, who was a French national and converted to Salafist Islam, and is believed to be the man who carried out the September attack, was killed during the raid on his Paris apartment after he opened fire on police.

An explosives lab, nearly 30,000 Euros, and a list of Jewish organizations in France were among the finds in police raids that took place from Cannes to Torcy. Read more ..

Th Edge of Terrorism

The Evolution of the Terrorist's Tradecraft

October 11th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters

The terrorist tradecraft does not happen in isolation. The practitioners of terrorist tradecraft conduct their activities in the midst of other people -- the authorities attempting to identify them and thwart their plans as well as civilians. Terrorist tradecraft also does not remain static. It is constantly evolving. These changes are prompted not only by countermeasures put in place to prevent terrorist attacks but also by advances in technology -- a powerful force that can serve to either nullify old tradecraft practices or to provide new tools to the purveyors of terror.

Terrorism is an enduring reality. While geopolitical changes may cause a shift in the actors who employ terrorism as a tactic, terrorism will continue to be used no matter what the next geopolitical cycle brings. It is, and will continue to be, a tactic used by militant actors who want to confront a militarily superior enemy. Focusing on the tradecraft used in attacks and charting its changes and trends not only permits observers to understand what is happening and why but also provides an opportunity to forecast what is coming next. Read more ..

The Islamic Winter of Rage

Yemeni Security Official Killed at U.S. Embassy in Sanaa

October 11th 2012

Embassy Attacks 9-12-12

Security officials say a gunman on a motorcycle has killed a Yemeni security official employed by the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa. The officials say the shooter opened fire on a car carrying Qassem Aqlani as he traveled to work on Thursday. The unidentified attacker then fled the area. Security officials said the attack resembled those carried out by al-Qaida, but that it was too early to say if the group was behind the shooting.
Yemen's government has been battling to regain territory from al-Qaida's Yemen branch after militants seized control of parts of the country's south last year.

The Edge of Terrorism

Indonesia Uncovers 'Credible' Terror Threat

October 10th 2012

Indonesian security forces

Indonesian police say they have uncovered "credible evidence" of a planned terror attack on dignitaries attending a Friday ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the deadly Bali bombings. Bali police chief I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said Wednesday that the country's security has been raised to its highest level ahead of the ceremony on the resort island.

"From the information we gathered, we have detected signs of an attack targeting dignitaries who will attend the event," he said. "Therefore, the police and army forces including the community have made sure of their readiness."

Yoga Ana said over 2,000 security personnel have been deployed, and all entry points to Bali, including airports and seaports, are being monitored. Among the world dignitaries expected at the ceremony is Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who said on Wednesday she is determined to attend despite the terror threat. The October 2002 attacks on two Bali nightclubs killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and seven Americans. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

State Dept. Now Contradicts Initial Claims on Benghazi Attack

October 10th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Senior State Department officials on Tuesday refuted claims by administration members that the deadly attack in Libya on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11 was provoked by an anti-Islam video. As a House hearing prepares to investigate the security of American personnel in the tumultuous country, two senior State Department sources told reporters that attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi did not happen as a result of protests. An official explained, in detail, what happened on the night that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed by an armed group of militants.

Stevens spent the day inside the Benghazi compound, which served as one of two U.S. bases in the city, "because it is 9-11, out of prudence, he has all his meetings on the compound," the unidentified official explained. "They are out in the street in front of the compound, everything is calm at 8:30 p.m., there is nothing unusual - there has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside," the official said. Read more ..

Mali on Edge

N. Mali Militias Train Youth to Fight

October 9th 2012


Northern Malian self-defense militias are uniting and training young men and women how to fight, as they prepare for a future offensive to the North. The militias reflect a growing impatience among Malians to retake the territory from al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants who seized control in April.

Leaders of the new generation of the Ganda Koy revived their militia in April, shortly after armed Tuareg and Islamist groups seized Mali’s three northern regions. The volunteers, young men in plastic sandals and athletic shorts and young women in tee-shirts and cloth wrap skirts, get a crash course in how to be soldiers. Commander Djibril Moussa Diallo was among the ex-military officers who founded the Ganda Koy, in opposition to the Tuareg rebellions of the 1990s. He smiles as he watches recruits march in formation. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Danish Agent: Provided Intel for U.S. Drone Attack That Killed Anwar al-Awlaki

October 9th 2012

MQ-1 Predator Drone

The American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki may have been targeted for a deadly drone strike by a Danish intelligence agent who has now spoken publicly on his role for the first time. The operation to eliminate the Yemeni terror threat to America apparently was an example of good cooperation between intelligence services of several countries to fight al Qaeda.

Awlaki died on Sept. 30, 2011, in a drone mission in a remote desert of Yemen. The New Mexico–born terrorist had established himself as both a key propagandist for al Qaeda and a key operational figure in its Yemeni franchise, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Awlaki was a master of explaining al Qaeda’s narrative and ideology to potential recruits, especially those whose native language was not Arabic. He was the guiding hand behind AQAP’s English-language Web magazine, Inspire, which was full of his writings and interviews, as well as helpful tips such as how to make a bomb in your mother’s kitchen. Read more ..

Islam's Winter of Rage

Safety Alert Issued to American Nationals in Pakistan

October 9th 2012

Pakistan anti us protest

The diplomatic officials assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, issued a threat alert on Sunday for U.S. nationals, advising them to keep a low profile, avoid traveling at night and taking other safety precautions, according to security source.

The embassy informed hundreds of American nationals that on Sunday the Pakistani Ministry of Interior issued its own threat alert regarding possible terrorist attacks in Islamabad. Besides al-Qaeda, there are radical Islamists from the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network who all use improvised explosive devices and other weapons against non-Muslims. The Pakistani government believes foreigners risk being killed or injured at key government installations in the downtown area of Islamabad known as the "Red Zone" as well as five-star hotels located in Islamabad. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Turkey Continues to Return Fire After Syrian Mortar Attack

October 8th 2012

Turkish Soldiers on patrol

Turkey launched a new retaliatory strike Monday after a mortar bomb fired from Syria hit the Turkish countryside as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of "extremely dangerous" fallout from the escalating border conflict.

Ban also said he is "deeply concerned" about the continuing flow of weapons to both the Syrian government and opposition forces, and the impact of the Syrian crisis on neighboring Lebanon. He reiterated calls for a political solution, which he said is the "only way" to resolve the crisis that began in March of last year.

The Turkish strike against Syrian positions for the sixth consecutive day came after a shell landed in a Turkish border area in southern Hatay province. The latest mortar round from Syria landed 150 meters within Turkey's border in the district of Hacipasa, according to Turkish officials. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Monday that "worst-case scenarios" were taking place in Syria and urged the international community to act. As tensions simmered between the two neighbors, Syrian Information Minister Omran Zahbi said Damascus is not responsible for security along the border. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

An Incriminating Timeline: Obama Administration and Libya

October 8th 2012

Amb Chris Stevens
Ambassador Christopher Stevens

The latest incriminating information on the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya indicates that the State Department turned down a request for additional security from concerned U.S. embassy staff. New evidence shows there were security threats in Libya in the months prior to the deadly September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Despite these threats, the State Department left its personnel there to fend for themselves. And when the terrorist attack did take place, the Obama Administration peddled the ridiculous story that an offensive, amateurish, anti-Islam YouTube video was to blame in order to avoid characterizing the murders of four Americans as terrorism.

On October 2, a letter was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R–CA) and Jason Chaffetz (R–UT), Chairman of the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. The letter detailed 13 known security threats against U.S. facilities in Libya in the six months prior to September 11. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Obama Administration’s Promised Payouts to Defense Firms May not Occur

October 8th 2012

The first U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship, Freedom

The Obama administration is unlikely to make payments to defense contractors to cover severance costs caused by across-the-board Pentagon cuts, according to defense analysts. The prospect of the payouts has sparked a political firestorm, with congressional Republicans comparing them to bribes and saying they'll do anything possible to stop the government from making the payments. But the likelihood of the payments being made is actually quite remote, defense analysts say, because the companies won’t feel the effects of sequestration immediately.

The government also is not planning to cancel contracts the day the cuts take effect. All the same, the Office of Management and Budget sweetened the pot in guidance to defense firms last week. OMB said that federal agencies would cover companies’ costs if they have to lay off employees due to sequestration prior to a 60-day federal notification requirement. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Israeli Air Force Strikes Terror Operatives in Gaza, 1 Dead

October 7th 2012

Hellicopter & troops

The Israeli Air Force targeted two terror operatives in Gaza earlier today, the Israel Defense Forces said in an email to reporters. The targets were, “Tala’at Halil Muhammad Jarbi (b. 1989), a Global Jihad operative from Rafah, and Abdullah Muhammad Hassan Maqawai (b. 1988), a member of the Ashora Council of the Martyrs of Jerusalem, a Gaza-based Global Jihad affiliate,” according to the release. A medic in Gaza told AFP that one person was killed and another severely injured in the operation.

The IDF says that the targets were responsible for extensive terror activity, and were in the process of planning another attack against Israel. The IDF wrote: “For many years Tala’at was involved in extensive terrorist activity, targeting Israeli civilian and security forces, including rocket firing, weapon manufacturing, and other terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip. He was a senior operative involved in the planning and execution of an attack along the security fence on 18.6.12, during which an Israeli civilian was killed. He had also been planning an complex attack intended to take place along the Sinai border.” Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorist Abu Hamza, Associates Extradited from London to U.S.

October 6th 2012

Abu Hamza
Abu Hamza al-Masri

Radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri—also known as Mustafa Kamal Mustafa—and four other terrorism suspects are were flown out of London, England, on a heavily-guarded jet headed for the United States Friday night, October 5. They arrived in New York early the morning of October 6. A Scotland Yard anti-terrorism unit turned over custody of the five suspects to members of the US Marshals Service’s fugitive recovery unit at a Royal Air Force base outside of London, according to an Inspector with the Marshals Service in New York City.

A European court decision earlier this week cleared the way for their extradition, ending eight years of legal maneuvering.

High Court judges dismissed the terrorism suspects’ appeals to not be extradited to the U.S. to face multiple charges. The judges ruled that the suspects—Abu Hamza, Syed Talha Ahsan, Adel Abdul Bary, Babar Ahmad, and Khaled al-Fawwaz—did not persuade the court to nullify the extradition warrant from the U.S. Department of Justice. When his attorneys argued that he is ill and needs to be hospitalized, one High Court judge said Abu Hamza al-Masri’s health problems were a reason to extradite him as soon as possible. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Military Implications of the Syria-Turkey Border Incident

October 6th 2012

Turkish Tanks

On October 3, Syrian military forces reportedly fired a mortar round that landed in Turkey, killing five civilians and wounding ten or more in the border town of Akcakale. In retaliation, Turkish artillery shelled the locations from which Syrian forces had fired, apparently using counterbattery radar. The Turks renewed shelling of cross-border targets the next day, and parliament authorized the use of military force in Syria. Some Syrian soldiers are said to have been killed.

This is the most serious incident along Syria's borders since the revolution began in March 2011. It has potentially significant military implications, including escalation into a broader Turkish-Syrian conflict, creation of a de facto buffer zone in northern Syria, and further weakening of Bashar al-Assad's forces relative to the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). Damascus will likely back down and attempt to avoid a fight with Turkey, essentially leaving Ankara with the task of controlling escalation. Whatever the case, this development adds additional weight to arguments for a greater U.S. and allied role in ending the regime and the war in Syria. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Homeland Security Considerations in This Year's Elections

October 6th 2012

National Fusion center

The 9/11 attacks acted as a catalyst for major changes in U.S. security efforts. They altered not only how the nation would identify and prepare for threats, but also how it would prevent them. Since 9/11, America has done a better job defending itself, thwarting at least 40 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots aimed at the United States. Additionally, America has improved efforts to safeguard its own sovereignty by investing significantly in border security. These measures discourage illegal border crossing and unlawful presence in conjunction with workplace enforcement and programs to prevent illegal employment. Furthermore, lessons learned in the war against terrorism have stopped some practices and programs that contribute little to real security.

Progress in the homeland security enterprise, however, has been inconsistent. The White House continues to press for an “amnesty first” approach to border security, immigration policy, and workplace enforcement while undercutting key tools, including the 287(g) program, which facilitates state and local cooperation on investigating immigration-related crimes. Such a strategy undermines the progress that had been made in fixing broken borders and restoring credibility to U.S. immigration laws. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

US Firm Raided for Military Exports to Russian Intelligence Groups

October 6th 2012

MQ-1 Sky Warrior drone

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday raided a company in Houston, Texas accused of illegally exporting high-tech equipment to Russian military and intelligence officials, according to Justice Department sources. Eight suspects were arrested at Arc Electronics, Inc. and the owner of the company, Alexander Fishenko, was charged with operating as an unregistered agent of the Russian government, an FBI report said.

Fishenko was charged of obtaining microelectronics on behalf of Russia and allegedly exporting the technology to Russian military and intelligence operatives despite strict U.S. government controls.

The microelectronics shipped to Russia included analog-to-digital converters, static random access memory chips, microcontrollers, and microprocessors. These commodities have applications and are frequently used in a wide range of military systems, including radar and surveillance systems, missile guidance systems, and detonation triggers. Russia does not produce many of these sophisticated goods domestically. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey Warns Syria About Cross-Border Attacks

October 5th 2012

Turkish Military convoy

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is warning Syria against carrying out more attacks on Turkish soil. In a fiery speech Friday in Istanbul, Erdogan said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should not test Turkey's ability to strike back.

Erdogan's remarks came two days after a Syrian attack on the Turkish town of Akcakale killed five civilians, in one of the most serious cross-border incidents in Syria's 18-month uprising.

Following the attack, Turkish forces shelled Syrian targets and Turkey's parliament authorized military operations outside its borders if necessary. Erdogan's comments came as Turkish officials are expressing dismay that international outrage against the Syrian regime this week was not as strong as Turkey desired.

Ankara demanded that the United Nations Security Council take strong action. But after hours of haggling between Turkey's Western allies and longtime Syria-backer Russia, U.N. Security Council condemnation of Syria was not as strong as Turkey was hoping for.

"The situation at the Turkish Syrian border is a quite a serious one and I think anybody who is in our shoes would prefer a stronger format or language," said Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal. Also, at an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors after the incident, NATO did not invoke Article Five of its charter, which would require all members to defend Turkey.

Analysts say after numerous rebuffs from its allies, Turkey realizes it is in danger of becoming isolated. Sinan Ulgen head of the Istanbul-based research institute, Edam, said Ankara is now playing for the long run. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

Turkey Approves Possible Further Action Against Syria

October 4th 2012

Turkish Armored vehicle

The Turkish parliament has approved a government motion to authorize further military operations outside the country's borders, after striking Syrian targets in response to a deadly cross-border mortar attack.

The parliament easily passed a motion sanctioning military intervention into Syria, a constitutional requirement for the government. The move follows the deaths of five Turkish citizens by artillery fire from Syria on Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the one-year measure is not a declaration of war, but intended as a deterrent against aggressive action by Syria. The Turkish army fired on Syrian army positions in response, and according to local reports launched further attacks Thursday on Syrian military installations. Atalay said Syria has taken responsibility and formally apologized for the deaths of the five Turkish civilians, and reassured the United Nations that "such an incident will not occur again." The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ankara's retaliatory artillery strikes killed three Syrian soldiers near the border town of Tel Abyad. Syrian state media has not reported any casualties. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

DHS Imagines a Brave New World beyond Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist TVs

October 4th 2012

taiwanese semiconductor plant

To believe that technologies once dreamed of in science fiction novels, television shows, and comic strips may one day be a reality, or that real-world technologies might make the fantastic devices of fiction obsolete, you'd need to be either an optimist…or a futurist in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).

To keep dreams grounded, S&T maintains a team of futurists in Arlington, Va., at the Homeland Security Studies & Analysis Institute (HSSAI). There, in the Resilience and Emergency Preparedness / Response Branch, analysts explore the art of the possible, helping DHS shape dreams into a lucid, viable vision. "Revolutionary ways of working are often invented because visionaries saw a need and a novel way to meet it," said Deputy Director Bob Tuohy, who is an admitted sci-fi enthusiast. Read more ..

Israel's Looming Attack

Congressmen Declare: 'Israel Cannot Place Security in the Hands of Barack Obama'

October 4th 2012

Obama pointing finger at Netanyahu

American politicians generally refrain from criticizing the president overseas, but Republican Congressman Trent Franks made a serious exception during his visit to Israel on Wednesday, blasting President Barack Obama's policy in no uncertain terms. "Israel cannot place their security in the hands of Barack Obama," he said to the Times of Israel, "they can’t do it." The Times also describes him saying to a Christian Zionist group, "If Israel does not stop Iran, Obama will not prevent the Islamic Republic from gaining nuclear weapons."

Franks also attacked Obama's policy on Israel in general, saying: "It breaks my heart to see the president of the United States reserve more criticism for Israel... than he does for [Iranian president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.... It is very difficult for me to understand how that could happen." Franks's extremely unusual move underlines the degree to which Obama is mistrusted by those who view the Iran issue from a hawkish perspective. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

National Intelligence Fusion Centers Have Been Useless--Senate Report

October 3rd 2012

National Fusion center

An alarming report published by the Department of Homeland Security in March 2010 called attention to the theft of dozens of pounds of dangerous explosives from an airport storage bunker in Washington state. Like many such warnings, it drew on information gathered by one of the department’s “fusion centers” created to exchange data among state, local and federal officials, all at a cost to the federal government of hundreds of millions of dollars.

There was just one problem with that report, and many others like it: the theft had occurred seven months earlier, and it had been highlighted within five days in a press release by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which was seeking citizen assistance in tracking down the culprits. The DHS report’s tardiness and its duplication of work by others has been a commonplace failing of work performed by fusion centers nationwide, according to a new investigation of the DHS-funded centers by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.


The Cyber Edge

Adversarial Cyber Capabilities and the Conduct of Economic Warfare

October 3rd 2012

Shadowy Computer User

On 21 September 2012, attacks attributed to Iranian Hackers conducted a "Denial of Service Attack" on the Bank of America Corporation, JP Morgan Chase & Company and Citigroup Inc. In addition to the attack on 21 September, there have been a series of attempted penetrations over the past year, as part of a broad "Cyber Campaign" targeting the United States.

The attacks, which began in late 2011 and escalated this year, have been primarily cyber attacks that have disrupted banking websites and corporate networks by saturating them with massive incoming e-mail traffic that simply overwhelmed these networks. "Denial of Service Attacks" can be accomplished by an individual hacker or group of hackers, as well as "State Sponsored" entities. On any given day, computer networks that support financial, communications, transportation, defense, energy and all other sectors that support the operation of the national critical infrastructure of the United States, are continually "Scanned and Probed" for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized individuals and foreign entities.

The Arab Winter of Rage

U.S. Consulate in Libya was Attacked 13 Times before Fatal Incident

October 3rd 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Two House Republicans say they have been informed by whistleblowers that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked and threatened 13 times before the incident last month that killed four Americans.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter on Tuesday that detailed the whistleblowers’ allegations. “Based on information provided to the Committee by individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya, the attack that claimed the ambassador’s life was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months leading up to September 11, 2012,” Issa and Chaffetz wrote. “It was clearly never, as Administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest." Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Details Emerge of Federal Polytechnic Mubi Students Massacre in Nigeria

October 3rd 2012

Nigeria Adamawa State college

Twenty-two of the dead were students whom attackers had called out by name, a police spokesman said. A local resident said at least 40 people had been shot dead or stabbed. The killings come days after a major operation against the Boko Haram militant group in the town, while others have linked them to a dispute over student union elections. Rivalries over student elections have turned violent before but have never reached this level, says the BBC's Nigeria correspondent Will Ross.

Mobile phone masts in the area were recently attacked by Boko Haram militants, so getting information from Mubi is difficult, adds our correspondent. Investigations were under way, said Adamawa state police spokesman Mohammed Ibrahim, who had just visited the scene, adding that the motive for the attack was not yet clear. But he said the attackers had inside knowledge: "The attackers called the victims by name and killed them." Two of the dead were security guards and the other an elderly resident, said Mr. Ibrahim. Read more ..

The Weapons Edge

Lockheed Won't Issue Layoff Notices this Year

October 1st 2012


Lockheed Martin said Monday it will not issue employee layoff notices this year, ending an election-year showdown with the Obama administration. The company said it based its decision on new guidance issued Friday by the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon.

The guidance said the Pentagon did not anticipate killing any contracts on Jan. 2, the day automatic spending cuts are set to begin hitting defense spending. The guidance also said the federal government would cover severance costs that are mandated under a federal layoff notices law.

The decision by Lockheed means tens of thousands won't get layoff notices days before Election Day, which might have cast a crucial blow against President Obama's reelection chances. Republicans argue that last week's guidance was a politically motivated effort by the administration to protect Obama ahead of the election. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Political and Military Challenges to Demining the Strait of Hormuz

October 1st 2012

Mine countermeasures ship USS Scout
Minesweeper USS Scout (credit US Navy)

In late September, nearly thirty nations participated in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) in the Persian Gulf. Following up on strong U.S. Navy reinforcement efforts in the Gulf, IMCMEX signaled Iran that there is significant multilateral resolve to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. Yet some aspects of the exercise highlighted the difficulties of conducting mine countermeasures (MCM) operations in the narrow strait. Future exercises should be more ambitious and involve greater international participation.

Iran’s thread to mine Hormuz

On July 1, as European Union sanctions went into force, Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy proposed legislation to block the Strait of Hormuz in order to bar tankers carrying oil for countries that had imposed restrictions on the regime. On July 15, armed forces chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi stated, “We have a contingency plan for the blockade of the strait,” describing the scheme as “a viable plan.” Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Military Ordnance Dumped in Gulf Poses Threat to Shipping, Drilling

October 1st 2012

Crab on a possibly-leaky mustard gas container
A crab sits on a mustard gas container that may be leaking
(credit: Texas A&M University)

Millions of pounds of unexploded bombs and other military ordnance that were dumped decades ago in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, could now pose serious threats to shipping lanes and the 4,000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf, warn two Texas A&M University oceanographers.

William Bryant and Neil Slowey, professors of oceanography, who have more than 90 years of combined research experience in all of the Earth’s oceans, along with fellow researcher Mike Kemp of Washington, D.C., say millions of pounds of bombs are scattered over the Gulf of Mexico and also off the coasts of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii.

Bryant says the discarded bombs are hardly a secret. “This has been well known for decades by many people in marine science and oceanography,” he explains. He will give a presentation in San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 1 about the bombs to a group of oceanographers and marine scientists at the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions conference. Read more ..

The Weapon's Edge

Defense Contractor's Worker Stole Military Technology for China

September 29th 2012

F-35 Military Plane

A jury on Thursday convicted an employee of a defense contractor for exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), stealing military secrets, and making false statements to federal law enforcement.

Sixing Liu, a/k/a “Steve Liu,” a Chinese citizen who lived in Flanders, New Jersey, and in Deerfield, Illinois, was immediately taken into federal custody after the jury announced their verdict. U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler based his decision for Liu to remain in custody after agreeing with the prosecutor that Liu was a flight risk. Sentencing before Judge Chesler is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2013.

The jury convicted 49-year-old Liu of nine of the 11 counts with which he was charged, including six counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, one count of possessing stolen trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, one count of transporting stolen property in interstate commerce, and one count of lying to federal agents. The jury acquitted Liu on two counts of lying to federal agents. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Nigerian Terrorist Attack Condemned by U.S. Lawmakers

September 28th 2012

Boko Haram

On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Pastor Laolu Akande, Executive Director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), blasted the terrorist group Boko Haram for the bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria. The terrorist group -- an al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist organization -- killed a woman and a child and injured 48 other churchgoers.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest atrocity waged by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria. The bombing at Saint John's Catholic Church in Bauchi is the latest in ongoing, coordinated attacks by Boko Haram on Catholic and other Christian churches in Nigeria, including the 2011 Christmas Day and 2012 Easter Day bombings," said Rep. King.

"The Muslim world exploded over a ridiculous YouTube video and the Obama administration couldn't apologize enough, but Christians being murdered, tortured and having their churches burned to the ground by Muslims appears to be ignored by Obama and his sycophants," said counterterrorism expert and former police commander George Wilkinson. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Iran Responds To Netanyahu, Vowing To Retaliate If Attacked

September 28th 2012

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Iran has vowed to "retaliate" against any attack after Israel's prime minister called for a "red line" to prevent the Islamic republic from acquiring a nuclear bomb. Iran's deputy UN ambassador Eshagh al-Habib told the UN General Assembly on September 27 that the Islamic Republic "is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack." Al-Habib added that Israel had made "baseless and absurd allegations” against Iran’s “exclusively peaceful" nuclear program.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the need for a "red line" past which Iran could expect to be attacked for pursuing a nuclear weapons program. "At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs and that's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program," the Israeli leader told the General Assembly. In recent weeks, Israeli leaders have repeatedly warned that Israel would carry out a unilateral military strike if Iran got close to making a nuclear bomb. Read more ..

America on Edge

Red Team Operation Reveals Ease of Obtaining Counterfeit IDs

September 28th 2012

Waiting at the DMV

A federal “Red Team” demonstrated the ease with which a person is able to obtain a valid driver’s license complete with photograph using stolen identity information or fictitious biographic information, according to the head of a non-partisan, public-interest group on Tuesday.

Brian Zimmer, President of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, said in statement released on Tuesday: “The [Red Team] replicated the same techniques used by the 9/11 terrorists to get more than 30 driver’s licenses and [photo] IDs from state licensing agencies. To obtain a driver’s license with your photo but with someone else’s biographic information or with fictitious information, terrorists need only travel to a state where identification standards are low and service is fast. Terrorists planning future attacks on Americans will be delighted by GAO’s findings, but Congress should be very concerned.”

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on Sept. 21, 2012, titled “Driver’s License Security—Federal Leadership Needed to Address Remaining Vulnerabilities,” the GAO demonstrated that counterfeit documents can still be used to easily obtain valid driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards under fictitious identities, and recommended that the Department of Homeland Security exert leadership in correcting the problem. Read more ..

The Drug Wars

37 Mexican Cops Busted for Links to Drug Cartel

September 28th 2012

Mexican soldiers at the beach

The Mexican government has confirmed that earlier this week, 37 police officers were arrested in eastern Mexico for allegedly cooperating and working with the deadly and powerful Los Zetas drug cartel. Mexican Navy officials, who were called in to take action, said in a statement that 19 local cops were captured in the state capital of Veracruz, Xalapa, and another 16 in neighboring San Luis Potosi state were nabbed, four of whom were female officers.

"All of them were police officers in the Ministry of Public Security of Veracruz and allegedly collaborated with the criminal organization of Los Zetas," said the Navy statement. The 37 suspects were transported in heavily guarded vehicles to Mexico City where they went before the public prosecutor from the Special Investigations Office for Organized Crimes. Ironically, the investigation that led to the arrest of 37 law officers was the result of an investigation into the killings of 35 people by Los Zetas last year in Veracruz. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Zawahiri and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. What Next?

September 27th 2012

Click to select Image

With the death of Osama Bin Laden the leadership of al-Qaeda passed to Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. An Egyptian Islamist, he had been Bin Laden's close associate (and some say mentor) since their first meeting in Afghanistan in 1985. To observers who knew both men well, Zawahiri was considered the more intellectual, the more advanced Koranic scholar, and even the more purposeful of the two Islamist intransigents.

The Islamist career of Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the Egypt Islamic Jihad (EIJ) movement, dates from his early youth when he joined the Muslim Brotherhood—the Ikhwan al-Muslimun. While still in his teens he had found the Ikhwan less revolutionary, less Jihadist and Salafist, than he had hoped. Consequently, he joined the clandestine Tala'a al-Fath (Vanguard of Conquest) whose plan of action was more to his liking. The Tala'a al-Fath was held responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Zawahiri was netted in the roundup of radicals that followed. The Sadat assassination also had an immediate impact on the Ikhwan, and its existing entente cordial which had taken years to build was followed by years in the political wilderness. Not surprisingly, Zawahiri and his allies were considered incorrigible fanatics.

After serving a term in jail, Zawahiri followed the trail of Egypt’s so-called Arab-Afghans making their way to Peshawar, Pakistan. He was once again a wanted man, having served as the inspiration for the reconstitution of the Egypt Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and for its program of targeted assassinations. In the war for Afghanistan, he would use his medical skills in support of the Arab-Afghan mujahideen, and it was there that he met Osama bin Laden, after which the two became fast friends. Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

Inside Iran's Nuclear Warhead

September 27th 2012

Edwin Black

Since the last century, Iran has been methodically pursuing the in-house capability of developing a missile-delivered nuclear bomb. The regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now closer than ever and probably in the latter stages of perfecting an atomic bomb with a multipoint detonation mechanism, compact enough to insert into a Shahab-3 missile nosecone.

For years, the Obama administration, Western governments, the United Nations, and the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) have been fully aware of the specific details of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, down to the blueprints and names of the engineers. Whether or not Iran will complete the last leg of its decades-long journey toward a deliverable atomic bomb is still unknown. The difference in viewing the cannon is whether you are staring down the muzzle or observing it through a telescope from a perch six thousand miles away. Israel is peering into the muzzle, hence its assessment is different than Washington’s.

Protracted multilateral negotiations, crippling international sanctions, and even elaborate programs of sabotage have delayed but not derailed the nearly autarkic program. Now the world teeters at the brink of a regional war with profound global ramifications because the threat may have been ignored too long.

Here are the four determining factors, the dynamics of which will govern whether Israel launches a preemptive attack against Tehran’s massive nuclear infrastructure.

The four technological achievements are key to completing Tehran’s nuclear weapon are: 1) accretion of enough nuclear materials, highly enriched to 90 percent, to make the bomb; 2) machining that highly-enriched material into metal for a spheroid warhead so it can fit into a missile nosecone for detonation; 3) a trigger mechanism to initiate the atomic explosion at the precise moment of missile reentry; and, of course, 4) a reliable rocket delivery system to carry such a weapon. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

Diplomatic Security in the Spotlight Following Benghazi Disaster

September 27th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

It has been more than two weeks since the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, yet the attack remains front-page news. One reason is that it has become unusual for a U.S. ambassador to be killed. After the 1968 assassination of John Mein in Guatemala -- the first ever U.S. ambassador to be assassinated -- several others were killed in the 1970s: Cleo Noel Jr. in Sudan in 1973, Rodger Davies in Cyprus in 1974, Francis Meloy Jr. in Lebanon in 1976 and Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979. However, following improvements in diplomatic security during the 1980s, no U.S. ambassador has died as a result of a hostile action since Ambassador Arnold Raphel, who was killed in the plane crash used to assassinate Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in August 1988. Read more ..

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