Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hope In Afghanistan?


U.S. Soldiers Find Surprise on Returning to Afghan Valley: Peace -- New York Times

NANGALAM, Afghanistan — The Americans arrived under cover of night, the static electricity from their helicopter blades casting halos of blue in the pitch black.

It was their first return to the Pech Valley — a rugged swath of eastern Afghanistan so violent they nicknamed it the Valley of Death — since the American military abruptly ended an offensive against the Taliban here in 2011 after taking heavy casualties.

But the Americans, from the First Battalion of the 327th Infantry, had not come back to fight. Instead, their visit this summer was a chance to witness something unthinkable two years ago: the Afghan forces they had left in charge of the valley then, and who nobody believed could hold the ground even for weeks, have not just stood — they have had an effect.

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My Comment: This is a surprising report. I am still skeptical on Afghanistan's long term prospects .... but this success story is a positive sign.

A Look At The Upgraded F-18 Super Hornet



The Navy’s Carrier-Launched Fighter is Getting a Spiffy Upgrade -- Robert Beckhusen, War Is Boring

But will America’s admirals buy it over the F-35?

The Navy hasn’t put the money down for it yet. But this week, Boeing wheeled out a major upgrade to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Navy’s standard carrier-launched fighter plane. The new Advanced Super Hornet is stealthier, more powerful and boasts a much greater flying range than its predecessor.

It’s practically a brand-new jet. And an affordable one: $56 million for a factory-fresh copy or an estimated $14.6-$22 million to add the enhancements to an older Super Hornet. The heavily upgraded fighter is an option if admirals start getting cold feet over the troubled, $200-million-per-copy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The upgrades are designed to be subtle. Instead of keeping the weapons attached to the outside of the plane like in a conventional F/A-18, the Advanced Super Hornet holds its missiles and bombs — 2,500-pounds worth — inside an enclosed pod. This smoothes out the plane’s contours and makes it harder to detect with radar.

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My Comment: What appeals to buyers are the costs and the fact that existing F-18 maintenance crews can carry over their training to this new Super Hornet .... saving even more money. If the F-35 continues to have problems .... and the U.S. defense budget continues to be cut .... the F-18 Super Hornet is/will be a viable alternative.

Is Russia's T-50 The Jet That Will Outfly And Outshoot American Jets



Russia’s Stealth Fighter Could Outfly, Outshoot American Jets -- David Axe, War Is Boring

T-50 is fast, long-ranged and has fearsome new weapons

Since its public debut four years ago, Russia’s first stealth fighter has quietly undergone diligent testing, slowly expanding its flight envelope and steadily working out technical kinks. But for all this hard work there have been precious few indications just how many copies of the Sukhoi T-50 Moscow plans to build … and how it means to use them.

Until now.

Fresh reporting from Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman, one of the world’s top aerospace writers, offers tantalizing hints regarding Moscow’s intentions for the big, twin-engine T-50, an answer to America’s F-22 stealth fighter.

If Sweetman is correct—and he usually is—the angular warplane with the 50-foot wingspan could be bought in small numbers and used as a sort of airborne sniper, elusively flying high and fast to take down enemy radars and support planes using powerful, long-range missiles.

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My Comment: Sober reading for those who work for the Air Force and for F-35 supporters.

Is Russia Going To Deploy A 'Star Wars' Missile System In 2017?

S-400 anti-aircraft missile system launchers. © RIA Novosti. Anton Denisov

Russia To Fight Space Invaders, Other Threats, With Advanced ‘Star Wars’ S-500 Missile Defense System -- IBTimes

Russia has announced plans to deploy the S-500 air defense missile weapon system by 2018. The S-500 system can hit targets in space and has a range of 500 kilometers, approximately 310 miles.

Interfax news agency reports the S-500 air defense missile weapon system will be ready for deployment by January 2018. The announcement was made by the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Lt. Col. Viktor Bondarev on Friday. Bondarev said, “We can now say we can make this system. It will hit ballistic and aerodynamic targets. It will have an excellent range of some 500 km,” reports Interfax.

The S-500 air defense system is an upgrade from the S-400 system, which has a range of 400 km (249 miles), reports Agence France-Presse. According to an anonymous source speaking to Interfax, the S-500 will be able to target threats from space and will be able to protect the entire country as an anti-aircraft and anti-missile system. The AFP article cites an even earlier deployment timeline, with the “star wars” missile system ready for use by 2017.

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More News On Reports That Russia Is Going To Deploy A 'Star Wars' Missile System In 2017

Report: Russia To Deploy 'Star Wars' Missile System in 2017 -- Defense News/AFP
Russia to deploy 'star wars' missile system in 2017, report says -- Phys.org
Supply of S-500 air defense missile weapon systems to Russian army will begin in January 2018 - Russian Air Force -- Russia Beyond The Headlines
Russia Building 'Star Wars' Defense -- Newser

Does President Obama's Plan To Strike Syria Make Strategic Sense?

Protesters outside the White House (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Why Obama's Plan to Strike Syria Makes No Strategic Sense -- James Joyner, The Atlantic

Even a humanitarian operation demands a logical premise and a well-designed goal. The administration's proposal has neither.

Having backed himself into a corner by declaring a "red line" that has now been crossed, President Obama is by all appearances ramping up for military action in Syria. As best we can tell from the not inconsiderable leaks coming from Washington and elsewhere, the planned strikes would use aerial assets, last only a short period, and decidedly not be aimed at achieving our declared strategic goal.

The president has repeatedly articulated, going back to August 2011, that there is but one acceptable end state: "Assad must go." Dean of the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and former ambassador Christopher Hill may well be right that this declaration "was not carefully arrived at" and has "boxed us in," it nonetheless remains the administration's policy.

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My Comment: I have mentioned before that I do not understand what is the end-game for the U.S. in the event that they decide to conduct a military strike against Syria. And while I will give the White House the benefit of the doubt (for now) .... I will admit that I am deeply skeptical.

Sanctions Are Crippling Iran's Oil Industry

Iran has rejected reports that the country’s oil output is falling. (Reuters)

Iran's Oil Revenues Drop 58 Percent Since 2011 As Sanctions Bite: U.S. -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Iran's monthly revenues from oil sales have dropped 58 percent since just before the United States imposed harsher sanctions on the country in 2011 because of Tehran's disputed nuclear program, a senior U.S. official said.

The OPEC member's monthly crude oil revenues averaged an estimated $3.4 billion in the first half of this year, down from $6.3 billion in the year ago period, and $8 billion from the first half of 2011, said the source, who did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of policy on sanctions.

Washington warned in late 2011 Iran's oil consumer countries that their banks would face being cut off from the U.S. financial system unless they significantly reduced purchases of Iranian oil. The EU has also cracked down on Iranian crude exports.

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My Comment: What must also be galling for Tehran is that they have now been denied access to much of their oil income residing in foreign banks.

Update #1: US says Iran unable to access oil money -- Times of Israel
Update #2: Iran’s oil industry: Dreaming of a new golden age -- The Economist

World News Briefs -- August 31, 2013



UN Weapons Inspectors Leave Syrian Capital -- Al Jazeera

Teams finish gathering evidence of alleged gas attack near Damascus, though UN says sample analysis may take weeks.

UN chemical weapons inspectors, in Syria to probe an alleged poison gas attack that killed hundreds, have left Damascus for Beirut, having completed four days of site visits and evidence-gathering, witnesses and officials say.

The experts departed their hotel in the Syrian capital on Saturday morning, after having carried out a final day of inspections on Friday. The inspectors are seeking to determine what exactly happened in an alleged chemical weapons strike that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburbs on August 21.

The 13 inspectors, led by Ake Sellstrom, were seen loading their luggage into seven UN vehicles before setting off from their hotel, an AFP correspondent said.

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MIDDLE EAST

International weapons experts leave Syria, U.S. prepares attack.

In Damascus, army and civilians scramble for safe havens.

Syrian hackers threaten retaliation for any U.S. strike.

Iraqi militia vows to attack U.S. interests if Syria hit.

Iran threatens payback on Syria; Russia sends warship.

Lebanon tense as Syria strikes loom.

Israel deploys Iron Dome defense system ahead of possible U.S. strike on Syria.

Iraq protesters rally against MP benefits.

Iraq court scraps law barring Iraq PM from third term.

Eyes on nuclear talks, Iran tempers support for Assad.

Iran appoints first foreign ministry spokeswoman.

ASIA

Attacks in southern Afghanistan kill at least 18.

Marines have turned Helmand fight over to Afghans.

High-ranking Chinese says ball in Japan’s court.

China's N. Korea nuclear pointman in Pyongyang.

UN rights chief says Sri Lanka heading in "authoritarian direction".

Liquid ammonia leak kills at least 15 in Shanghai.

India's GDP shows continuing slowdown.

Yasin Bhatkal: India Mujahideen 'leader' flown to Delhi.

How would US attack on Syria affect Washington's Asia pivot?

AFRICA

Egypt: Protests dwindle in crackdown; government refuses to give death toll, arrests.

Congo's army occupies rebel positions in breakthrough.

Displaced women, children at high risk of rape in Somali camps - rights group.

George Clooney's Sudan spy satellites 'inspired by paparazzi'.

Libya oil exports at 20 percent of pre-war level.

Former rebels sow terror in Central Africa Republic: Residents.

Nelson Mandela hospital release reports 'incorrect'.

EUROPE

Russia's Vladimir Putin challenges US on Syria claims.

U.S. criticizes Russia for preventing formation of coalition for possible military action in Syria.

France stands alone in support of Syria attack.

John Kerry slaps Britain in face by calling France 'oldest allies'.

German asylum system hits breaking point.

Bosnian Serbs welcome freed war criminal.

Pope Francis names Pietro Parolin as secretary of state.

Pope Francis takes a selfie, solidifies Catholic Church's newly cool image.

AMERICAS

Obama: US has obligation as world leader to act in Syria.

F.B.I. sharpens scrutiny of Syrians in U.S. for signs of retaliation.

Pentagon insists it is open to foreign investment in the U.S..

Suriname leader's son arrested on US drug charge.

Half of Mexicans say drug violence worse under Pena Nieto: Poll.

Mexico leftist vows to block reforms, warns oil firms.

Brazil GDP beats expectations for second quarter.

Hell's Angels admit murder conspiracy in Canada.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Al Qaeda affiliate urges attacks on Egyptian army.

US kills local AQAP commander in drone strike in central Yemen.

Drone strike kills 3 suspected militants in Pakistan.

Nigeria al-Qaeda suspect to be extradited to US.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Facebook considers adding profile photos to facial recognition.

Justice Department talks with Microsoft and Google stall.

Israel looks to glitter in world diamond trade.

Forget gold: this is the real precious metal.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 31, 2013


Meet The Military Forces Gathering On Syria's Doorstep -- Killer Apps/Foreign Policy

While the United States is ready to strike a handful of targets on the ground in Syria, any international conflict there will take place on a much larger stage. The entire region is full of a witches' brew of military hardware from more than half a dozen nations with interests in the Syrian conflict.

The United States and France are prepared to strike the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from the Mediterranean Sea and a ring of air bases surrounding Syria. Meanwhile, three of America's most powerful military allies -- Britain, Turkey, and Israel -- are publicly staying on the sidelines, albeit with their militaries primed to defend against any Syrian counterattack. Then there are Assad's friends, Russia and Iran, both of which have military personnel on the ground in Syria.

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MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE NEWS BRIEFS

So, what exactly are Obama's options on Syria? -- Tom Foreman, CNN

Hagel returns to US from Asia trip amid preparations for possible strike against Syria -- Washington Post/AP

The range of weapons, targets being considered as US mulls strike against Syrian government -- Washington Post/AP

What to Bomb in Syria -- and Why -- Carol Choksy & Jamsheed Choksy, Real Clear World

Limiting action to missile strikes in Syria could prove difficult, analysts say -- Stars and Stripes

Experts: Don't bomb chemical weapon sites in Syria -- AP

Exclusive: Syrian army moves Scud missiles to avoid strike -- Reuters

Syrian Strikes Would Battle-Test Chinese Radars -- Defense news

U.S. military officers have deep doubts about impact, wisdom of a U.S. strike on Syria -- Washington Post

MacDill would be central to any US attack on Syria -- Stars and Stripes/Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Russia Developing Attack Drone From T-50 Fighter Jet – UAC -- RIA Novosti

No Defense Deals With Iran While Litigation Continues - Rogozin -- RIA Novosti

Satellite images indicate North Korea is expanding rocket launch site -- Washington Times/AP

North Korea tops list of critical US intelligence gaps -- The Hill

'Talented and popular' soldier who fought in Afghanistan collapses on moor and dies just a day after his 26th birthday -- Daily Mail

Progress on wider US military role in Philippines: Hagel -- AFP

Hagel assures Philippines no new permanent U.S. bases -- Reuters

NORAD and Russian fighter jets conduct military drills amid tensions surrounding Syria -- RT

BCT reorganization will impact more than 26,000 engineers -- Army Times

Drones tag and track quarry using nanoparticle sprays -- New Scientist

Army scientists max out battery power to save soldiers' lives -- CBS

The Pentagon Has Been Running Top Secret Spy Plane Operations Against Mexican Drug Cartels -- Business Insider

Napolitano warns large-scale cyberattack on US is inevitable (Video) -- The Hill

UK asked N.Y. Times to destroy Snowden material -- Reuters

Microsoft and Google to sue over US surveillance requests -- The Guardian

Government to release annual totals of surveillance orders -- Washington Post

US CIA Role Escalates Since 2001 Terrorist Attacks -- Voice of America

White House peeved at Pentagon leaks -- Politico

An IT Flaw Has Let Unauthorized Users Exploit Army PCs for Years -- Gizmodo

Hasan arrives at Fort Leavenworth prison -- Army Times

Bradley Manning 'is doing well in prison' since announcing sex change and new name of Chelsea -- Daily Mail

Army Launches 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Vietnam War -- US Department of Defense

Sun sets on Marines' historic 'phrogs' -- Stars and Stripes

Gary Sinise named an Honorary Marine -- Stars and Stripes

Bring back mandatory military service in the US and UK -- Christopher Yates, The Guardian

According To The CIA Most UFO Sightings In 50s, 60s Were Of Spy Planes



CIA: Most UFO Sightings In 50s, 60s Were Of Spy Planes -- Stars and Stripes/Dayton Daily News, Ohio

DAYTON, Ohio — A recently declassified CIA report on the development of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes said the high-flying jets were mistaken for UFOs more than half the time in the late 1950s and 1960s during Project Blue Book, a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base operation that investigated reports of UFOs.

Not everyone is convinced, however, of the explanation.

“There’s no question that a lot of the sightings that take place are in fact our own aircraft, secret military projects or whatever it happens to be,” said David P. MacDonald, a Cincinnati area resident and executive director emeritus of the Mutual UFO Network. “Whether or not 50 percent can be attributed to one or two aircraft, I don’t know if I could go along with that or not just because of the diversity of what people were seeing.”

Blue Book investigated 12,618 UFO reports, and 701 of those remain unidentified, according to the Air Force.

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My Comment: I would love to know why they could not identify the 701 sightings that are listed as unknown.

U.S. Boosting Defense Spending And Ties In Asia



US Bolsters Asian Militaries in Face of China's Growth -- Voice of America

PENTAGON — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is traveling in Southeast Asia in a bid to strengthen ties with the militaries of partners and allies in the face of China's growing influence in the region. Hagel has arrived in Brunei for a meeting of defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN.

It is a visit meant to reassure partner nations that the United States stands behind them in their efforts to build their militaries.

At a stop in Indonesia, the U.S. defense secretary announced a $500 million deal for the sale of Apache helicopters to the Indonesian military.

“We are signing today the letter of agreement to go forward and sell those helicopters," said Hagel.

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More News On U.S. Boosting Defense Spending And Ties In Asia

US moves to cement Asia Pacific defence ties -- Radio Australia
U.S. Defense Chief Outlines Closer Southeast Asia Ties -- Wall Street Journal
Hagel Issues Warning Over Asian Maritime Disputes -- Defense News/AFP
US Significantly Boosts Military Funding for SE Asia -- Voice of America
U.S. Boosting Military Funds for Southeast Asia, Hagel Says -- Bloomberg
Pentagon Urges Philippines to Allow U.S. Troop Presence -- Wall Street Journal
Talks advance on wider US military role in Philippines -- Channel News Asia
Hagel assures Philippines no new permanent U.S. bases -- Reuters
Asia pivot: US to sell attack helicopters to Indonesia in $500 million deal -- Christian Science Monitor
US and Malaysia looking to expand defence collaboration -- The Star Online
Hagel Underscores Commitment to Partnership With Malaysia -- US Department of Defense

The End Of The HMS Ark Royal



Pride Of The Fleet, Hacked Apart In A Turkish Scrapyard: HMS Ark Royal Cuts A Sorry Sight As It's Reduced To Tin Cans And Razor Blades -- Daily Mail

* Aircraft carrier built in 1981 and cost £320 million to build
* Leyal Ship Recycling strips valuable items from hull for scrap
* Two new aircraft carriers ordered for more than £6 billion

She once ruled the waves. Now the 22,000-ton HMS Ark Royal is being ripped apart in a Turkish scrapyard, another victim of British defence cuts.

After a quarter of a century of service, Ark Royal – the fifth vessel to bear a name that dates back to victory over the Spanish Armada – will shortly be reduced to tin cans and razor blades.

This picture shows workers from Leyal Ship Recycling – which paid £2.9 million for the aircraft carrier – stripping out valuable scrap items before larger sections are torn away.

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My Comment: A sad end to a proud ship.

Is The U.S. Losing It's Credibility In Syria?



Bombing Or Not, We're Losing Our Credibility In Syria -- Mark Steyn, Investors.com

I see the Obama "reset" is going so swimmingly that the president is now threatening to go to war against a dictator who gassed his own people.

Don't worry, this isn't anything like the dictator who gassed his own people that the discredited warmonger Bush spent 2002 and early 2003 staggering ever more punchily around the country inveighing against.

The 2003 dictator who gassed his own people was the leader of the Baath Party of Iraq. The 2013 dictator who gassed his own people is the leader of the Baath Party of Syria. Whole other ball of wax.

The administration's ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take. In the unimprovable formulation of an unnamed official speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the White House is carefully calibrating a military action "just muscular enough not to get mocked."

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My Comment: Mark Steyn is brutal in this commentary .... and sadly right.

Why Is The Israeli Army Ordering 1,200 Viagra Pills?

A box of Viagra, typically used to treat erectile dysfunction, is seen in a pharmacy in Toronto January 31, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Why Did The Israeli Army Order 1,200 Viagra Pills? -- Haaretz

This is not the first time the ministry has sought price quotes for the sexual enhancement pill. It declined to comment citing 'privacy issues.'

Among the 105 tenders the Defense Ministry recently issued to procure items like tires, devices to warm the wounded, and sweet chili sauce, is a request for bids to supply the army with … Viagra.

Like other ministries, the Defense Ministry periodically publishes tenders in the daily press through the Government Advertising Bureau. One such tender recently published seeks 1,200 tablets of 100 mg. sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra, to be used by Israel Defense Forces soldiers suffering from erectile dysfunction. The tender is signed by the Medical Corps, so the tablets are not meant for anyone other than IDF soldiers, such as Defense Ministry employees or people being served by the Rehabilitation Branch. Nor, apparently, is this the first time the ministry has sought price quotes for Viagra to be supplied to the military.

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Update: Israel Requests Viagra For Soldiers -- Huffington Post

My Comment: The Israeli military is not the only military that has issues with Viagra. Check here, here, and here.

The Definitive NSA Parody Site

The definitive NSA parody site.

The Definitive NSA Parody Site Is Actually Informative -- Forbes

When I was working on a story about how much information the NSA data center in Utah might actually hold, a colleague sent me a link to this site, suggesting that the NSA was actually pretty transparent about its plans in Bluffdale. The “nsa.gov1.info” site had maps and photos of the data center, an overview of the plan for the site, and a description of the equipment that would be used there, as well as links to relevant articles. While the site looks very much like the NSA’s and much of the information — as gleaned from news articles — is accurate, it’s a parody site that takes on the bureaucrasona of the fictional “Domestic Surveillance Directorate.”

What makes the site incredibly fun to read is its taking on the voice of an NSA that embraces the openness about domestic intelligence gathering brought on by the Snowden leaks. The shadowy, secretive agency finally gets to put its feet up and brag about what it’s doing to “secure the future.” (That, by the way, is the NSA’s real tagline.) The “Surveillance Strategies” section raves about PRISM giving the NSA “ important insights into [targets'] thoughts and intentions.” In a candid explanation about why “Your Data” is being collected, the site explains that it’s “ thanks to top-secret Fourth Amendment exceptions allowed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

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WNU Editor: The NSA parody site is here.

The NSA Has It's Own Team Of Elite Cyber Hackers



The NSA Has Its Own Team Of Elite Hackers -- Washington Post

Our Post colleagues have had a busy day. First, they released documents revealing the U.S. intelligence budget from National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden. Then they recounted exactly how the hunt for Osama bin Laden went down.

In that second report, Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman shared a few tidbits about the role of the government’s hacking unit, Tailored Access Operations (TAO) in the hunt, writing that TAO “enabled the NSA to collect intelligence from mobile phones that were used by al-Qaeda operatives and other ‘persons of interest’ in the bin Laden hunt.”

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More News On The NSA's Elite Hacker Teams

‘Black budget’ leaked by Edward Snowden describes NSA team that hacks foreign targets -- Washington Post
U.S. spy agencies mounted 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, documents show -- Washington Post
U.S. spy network’s successes, failures and objectives detailed in ‘black budget’ summary -- Washington Post
Black budget leaked by Edward Snowden gives details of agencies beyond CIA, NSA -- Washington Post
US intelligence agencies' 'black budget' detailed -- BBC
The ‘Black Budget,’ Revealed -- David Firestone, New York Times
Surveillance Spending Vastly More Than Previously Thought -- Bob Adelmann, New American

Picture Of The Day

CEMETERY WALK
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visits the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 30, 2013. The 152-acre cemetery is the resting place of 17,201 U.S. service members killed in World War II, most of whom died during operations in New Guinea and the Philippines. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

Has The NSA Leaks Endangered The Lives Of MI6 Agents


Lives Of MI6 Agents 'Put At Risk' By 58,000 Secret Files Seized From Guardian Journalist's Partner At Heathrow -- Daily Mail

* High Court hears David Miranda had 'highly classified' UK intelligence files
* Partner Glenn Greenwald helped Edward Snowden expose US secrets
* Cabinet adviser tells court said material could ‘threaten life directly’

The lives of British agents may have been put at risk by a Guardian journalist’s possession of top-secret documents stolen from the US government, a senior Cabinet adviser has warned.

Documents seized from the reporter’s boyfriend, David Miranda, were so sensitive that agents have since had to be moved to protect their lives.

Oliver Robbins, deputy national security adviser at the Cabinet Office, went on the record to warn that ‘lives may be put at risk’ if the documents fall in to the wrong hands.

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My Comment: This is idle speculation, but from vantage point it appears that British intelligence is running scared .... they must have discovered something that is really "freaking them out" .... and I am not talking about the identities of MI6 agents.

Update: David Miranda accused of carrying secrets that threatened spies´ lives. This looks bad for Glenn -- The Telegraph

Are Edward Snowden's NSA Leaks Damaging US Intel Operations?

Edward Snowden. Reuters

Leaked 'Black Budget': Mixed Views On Damage To US Intel Operations -- Christian Science Monitor

Some analysts, as well as the US government, say Edward Snowden's new leak, of the 'black budget' for US clandestine operations, reveals too much about US intelligence priorities. Others, who argue for more transparency, practically cheer.

The "black budget" for US clandestine operations – newly leaked by former US contractor Edward Snowden – portrays a sprawling global operation that is geared to detect and defeat terrorists, but is dominated by a data-collection program so massive that other priorities could easily be crowded out, analysts and critics said one day after the top-secret document was published.

Details from the 2013 National Intelligence Program budget, portions of which the Washington Post made available as of Thursday on its website, identify top US spending priorities as fighting terrorism, halting the spread of nuclear weapons, warning of critical events overseas, counterintelligence, and cyberespionage and cyberattack operations.

Some information in the 178-page summary document simply validates what was already thought to be true – such as the level of spending for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA). But the amount of detail, together with a big-picture overview of intelligence operations, provides a much fuller picture of a government activity that has expanded dramatically over the past decade.

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My Comment: What's my view .... many of us always had the belief that the NSA was conducting operations that violated our privacy and rights .... what Edward Snowden has done with his leaks is that he has (so far) only confirmed in detail that we were right. I do not what future leaks will be revealed .... and I do hope that it is something that will not compromise our national security .... but we do have a right to know .... especially since many of us now no longer have confidence in the politicians who have clearly failed in providing the necessary oversight over the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

A Look At How Tomahawk Cruise Missiles May Be Used In Syria

The Tomahawk cruise missile flies fast and relatively low to the ground. Raytheon

How Tomahawk Cruise Missiles May Send Messages To (And From) Syria -- NBC

The Tomahawk cruise missiles being readied for possible use against Syrian government targets are part of a line going back to the Cold War — but these are definitely not your father's cruise missiles.

The most advanced Tomahawks are like driverless cars, except that they fly through the air at 550 mph and kill people. They have GPS, onboard digital maps, video cameras and two-way satellite links, and a navigation system that allows the missiles to loiter over an area and wait for their targets to pop up. That's in addition to the 1,000-pound bomb each Tomahawk typically carries.

The U.S. Navy can use those capabilities to send a message to Syria's leaders about their chemical weapons program, just as it sent messages in the past to leaders of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. Almost as important, the Tomahawks can send messages back — in the form of real-time battle damage assessments.

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My Comment: I suspect that the Syrians have already positioned and hid their more valuable military assets .... so it will be buildings and airfields that these missiles will probably target.

Update: 20 Reasons Why Tomahawk Missiles Should Put Assad In A State Of Panic -- Business Insider

Colombian President Deploys 50,000 Troop After Major Demonstrations Turn Violent



Colombia On Edge As Protests Sweep The Country -- Christian Science Monitor

Thousands of miners, truck drivers, health workers, and teachers have joined farmers in strikes that have blocked major arteries across Colombia.

Colombia's major cities erupted into violence yesterday as tens of thousands took to the streets in support of the nation's farmers, who have been on strike for eleven days.

Five people were reported killed, including a 15-year-old boy, in clashes with riot police that led President Juan Manuel Santos to announce the mobilization of 50,000 troops to restore calm to the country today.

Colombia's farmers – around 60 percent of the country's population, and the economy's backbone – say they can no longer make a living after years of neglect by the government in which crop prices have fallen, import prices have risen, and trade agreements have opened up the domestic market to large international companies they cannot compete with.

Read more ....

More News On The Unrest In Colombia

Colombian president deploys 50,000 troops after violent protests -- CNN
Troops Patrol Colombian Capital After Protests -- Voice of America
Colombia troops to patrol Bogota after protests -- BBC
Colombian president orders military patrols in Bogota -- Reuters
Rioting in Bogota as Colombia’s president acknowledges ‘a storm’ is battering farm sector -- AP

War Fever Is Now Gripping The Middle East

Image from The Economist

Turkey And Jordan Brace For The Worst As War Fever Grips The Region -- Haaretz

Like Israelis, people living in countries bordering Syria fear the violence may spill over and affect them.

Israelis aren’t the only ones in the region bracing themselves for a possible American attack on Syria; other nations that share a border with Syria are also tense, fearing a regional campaign that is liable to involve further use of chemical weapons.

Jordan seems to be the most concerned, as expressed by the stream of reports coming from Amman and the cities and regions adjacent to the Syrian border.

“Naturally it’s the talk of the day and the tension is great,” a Jordanian intellectual and resident of Amman told Haaretz yesterday evening. “I can attest that the pace of commerce and the markets in Amman are showing signs of a slowdown in the past week. There’s no doubt that people are concerned – perhaps in Amman less so, since it is the capital, after all, and there’s faith that the army, with the help of outside forces, will prevent any harm to the city. But as you get closer to the northern regions that are near the Syrian border, the situation is decidedly different.”

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My Comment: Turkish military forces are now on high alert. Military forces in Saudi Arabia are now on high alert. Hezbollah in Lebanon are now repositioning their military forces. Not to be left out .... Israel, Jordan, and Iraq have also put their military forces on high alert. On top of everything else .... Russia is sending in ships, and even more ominous warnings are coming from Iran. Everyone is now on the edge .... war fever and war coverage is on the air 24/7 .... and everyone is waiting for what President Obama will do.

The Pentagon Has No Money To Launch A Military Strike Against Syria


Pentagon Can’t Afford Syria Operation; Must Seek Additional Funds -- Washington Free Beacon

Congressional leaders decry lack of clear military objective

The U.S. military, struggling after defense cuts of tens of billions of dollars, will be unable to pay for attacks on Syria from current operating funds and must seek additional money from Congress, according to congressional aides.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, said on Friday he has not made a final decision on a military strike against Syria. He sought to play down both the scope and duration of the anticipated punitive missile and bombing campaign.

“As you’ve seen, today we’ve released our unclassified assessment detailing with high confidence that the Syrian regime carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed well over a thousand people, including hundreds of children,” Obama said.

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My Comment: This is just one more example that the White House Syrian policy is disorganized, leaderless, and devoid of clear objectives or direction .... in short .... on Syria everything is being done on the fly. On a side note .... it does not take a genius to realize that the Pentagon does not want to go into Syria.

Turkey's Position On The Impending Western Military Strike On Syria



For Turkey, Planned U.S. Missile Strikes on Syria Not Good Enough -- Piotr Zalewski, Time

For some American allies, such as the UK, whose parliament seemed to reject any armed involvement in Syria on Thursday, punitive airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad might be too much to stomach. For others, it may be too little. As the U.S. readies to proceed with limited missile strikes against Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed over a thousand people last week, Turkey, a key regional ally and Syria’s neighbor, seems to want more than Washington is willing to give.

The Obama administration signaled Friday that any action against Syria would be brief and measured. Turkey, however, having declared it would join any international coalition against Assad, with or without U.N. backing, has made it equally clear it wants a more robust intervention. On Wednesday, according to Turkish media, Ahmet Davutoglu, the country’s Foreign Minister, counseled his US counterpart John Kerry that any action should be forceful enough to bring Assad’s regime to the negotiating table.

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More News On Turkey's Position On What To Do In Syria

Turkish PM says Syria intervention should aim to end Assad rule -- Reuters
Erdogan wants Syria regime change, not limited strikes -- Al Arabiya
Turkey’s Erdogan Urges Action to Oust Syrian Regime -- Wall Street Journal
Turkey says intelligence analysis shows Syrian government behind chemical attack -- Washington Post/AP
Turkey says no doubt Assad's forces behind poison gas attack -- Reuters
Turkey Releases Evidence Linking Syria Regime to Attack -- Wall Street Journal
Turkey Frustrated Over Syria -- Al-Monitor
Turkey Weighs Consequences Of Role in Syria Strike -- Deniz Zeyrek, Al-Monitor

Is The UK-US Special Relationship On The Rocks?



UK-US Special Relationship In Danger, Warns Philip Hammond -- The Guardian

Defence secretary tells of concern over renewed Franco-American alliance, while Ed Miliband insists bond will endure

Defence secretary Philip Hammond has expressed apprehension about the future of Britain's defence ties with the US. Hammond's comments came as John Kerry, the US secretary of state, praised France as the oldest ally of the US and made no mention of Britain.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, the defence secretary showed how the Anglo-American special relationship had been shaken by the parliamentary defeat when he said that France's renewed alliance with the US placed Britain in an "uncomfortable place".

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My Comment: The relationship may not be special right now .... but it will survive because of language, history, and culture.

Update: About That Special Relationship -- Emanuele Ottolenghi, Commentary

NATO Will Not Participate In Any Syrian Military Action



NATO Doesn't Plan Syria Intervention - Rasmussen -- Novinite

NATO is not planning a military intervention in Syria under the auspices of the Alliance, stated Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"The international community must give an answer to events in Syria. But I see a no NATO role in an international reaction against the regime in Syria," stated Rasmussen, as quoted by Danish newspaper Politiken.

Nevertheless, the NATO Secretary General said he has no doubts that the regime is the party that perpetrated last week's attack with chemical weapons.
- See more at: http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=153285#sthash.1ljykKHA.dpuf

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More News On NATO Deciding To Not Participate In Any Syrian Military Action

NATO chief: No plans for alliance action in Syria -- AP
NATO will not take part in a Syria strike -- Daily Star/AFP
NATO will not participate in Syria attack, says Anders Fogh Rasmussen -- IBN Live
General Secretary Says NATO Will Not Be Part of Syria Strike -- Wall Street Journal
Evidence points to use of chemical weapons by Assad forces: NATO -- Reuters
Op-Ed: NATO will not sponsor Syria strike -- Ken Hanly, Digital Journal

5 Takeaways On The U.S. Intelligence Report That Outlines Syrian Culpability In Last Week's Chemical Attack

Obama having a meeting in the Situation Room on Dec. 7, 2012. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

US Releases Intelligence On Syria Chemical Attack: 5 Takeaways -- Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor

US report released Friday asserts an Aug. 21 attack in Syria involved chemical weapons – and concludes confidence is 'high' that the Assad regime, not Syrian rebels, is responsible. It also offers answers on what, when, where, and why.

That judgment is based on reports from human informants, intercepted communications, and overhead spy photos, says the terse four-page document. A total of 1,429 people, including 426 children, were killed in an attack that most likely involved nerve gas, says US intelligence.

“Our high confidence assessment [of what happened] is the strongest position that the US Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation,” says the document.

US officials have been promising all week that the administration would release a scrubbed intelligence analysis of the Syrian incident. The basic conclusions of the report, released Friday, closely follow statements the White House has been making for days.

In other words, it concludes that the tragic event was a chemical weapons strike, that the regime of Bashar al-Assad was responsible, and that there is no way Syrian rebels could have carried it out, as Mr. Assad claims.

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WNU Editor: The official White House report on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons can be read here.

Horrors Of The Syrian Civil War: Terrifying Video Reveals Shocking Incendiary Bomb Attack On School Playground



Terrifying Video Reveals Shocking Incendiary Bomb Attack On School Playground That Killed At Least Ten Syrian Children And Left Scores More With Horrific Burns -- Daily Mail

* BBC Panorama footage shows children and adults caked in 'napalm-like' substance following attack in northern Syria
* Many left with burns to more than 50 percent of their bodies
* Victims seen shaking uncontrollably while treated in basic hospital
* British medic in Syria said: 'We feel like we just don't matter'
* Disturbing film revealed just hours after MPs voted against military action in Syria, following chemical attack near Damascus

Shocking footage has emerged of young children and adults suffering horrific burns and caked in a 'napalm-like' substance after a bomb was dropped on a school playground in northern Syria.

Witnesses told a team from the BBC’s Panorama programme that a fighter jet had repeatedly flown overhead, as if searching for a target, before dropping the bomb.

The disturbing film came to light just hours after MPs voted against military action in Syria, following a chemical attack near Damascus on August 21.

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My Comment: The horrors keep on coming from Syria .... but this video has documented one of the worse.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- August 30, 2013



What Happens After A Strike On Syria? It Depends On How Far The U.S. Goes -- Richard Engel, NBC

America’s expected “limited” strikes in Syria could push the country into an even more dangerous and unpredictable downward spiral or even an international crisis, but doing nothing may be unconscionable and has consequences of its own.

Iran says a U.S. strike in Syria will result in disaster in the region.

Syria's foreign minister promised the Syrian military would defend against an attack in ways that will “surprise” the world.

Israel said it is putting its missile defenses, including the Iron Dome and Arrow systems, on their highest state of alert.

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Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

What happens in Syria after the Tomahawks hit? -- Tara McKelvey, BBC

Destroy Assad's Regime, or Hold Your Fire -- Fouad Ajami, Real Clear World/Hoover

5 possible risks of a U.S. military strike on Syria -- William Dermody, USA TODAY

Three Key Questions on Syria From Geoffrey Robertson -- Geoffrey Robertson, Daily Beast

Can Obama strike Syria without Congress' consent? -- Stephanie Condon, CBS

Is Syria the new Iraq? -- Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor

Are Chemical Weapons Reason Enough to Go to War? -- Dana Liebelson, Mother Jones

An Open Letter to President Obama: Syria Is Not Our War -- Christopher Dickey, Daily Beast

Turkey's Mixed Messages on Syria -- Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Jonathan Schanzer, The Atlantic

A savage defeat for Cameron... and he brought it on himself -- Max Hastings, Daily Mail

The British Are Now the French -- Alex Berezow, The Compass

Has Iraq shackled American power? -- David Rohde, Reuters

The Tall Tales of Cairo -- Ursula Lindsey, International Herald Tribune

More Megaprojects? What China’s Rebalancing Means for Asia -- Trefor Moss, The Diplomat

The Deep Sea Resources Rush -- Gemima Harvey, The Diplomat

The Clash of Civilizations? -- Samuel P. Huntington, Foreign Affairs

World News Briefs -- August 30, 2013 (Evening Edition)



US Set For Syria Strikes After Kerry Says Evidence Of Chemical Attack Is 'Clear'

• Secretary of state brands Assad 'a thug and a murderer'
• Kerry: attack killed 1,429 Syrians including 426 children
• 'History will judge us extraordinarily harshly if we turn blind eye'

John Kerry advanced what he called a "clear and compelling" case that Syria was responsible for a chemical attack that killed nearly 1,500 people, in a statement on Friday that made clear the US was on the verge of military strikes against the Assad regime.

Speaking in a blunt tones, the US secretary of state branded the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a "thug and a murderer", and said the United States could not stand by and let a dictator get away with such serious crimes.

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MIDDLE EAST

Last week's Syria chemical attack killed 1,429 - Kerry.

Scant foreign support for US strikes on Syria.

US to continue to seek Syria strike support.

Alawite stronghold in Syria a haven amid war.

Iran warns against U.S. military strikes on Syria.

Lebanon charges five over Tripoli bombings.

Hezbollah reportedly mobilizes forces in south Lebanon.

Bahraini policemen wounded in car bomb.

Saudi Arabia outlaws domestic abuse.

ASIA

Keeping up with China? Japan to expand diplomatic presence worldwide.

North Korea rescinds US envoy invitation.

Hagel concerned about possible South China Sea conflict.

Afghanistan suicide attack kills Kunduz district governor, civilians.

Taliban ambush caps day of Afghanistan attacks.

N. Korea: US is threatening nuclear attack by flying B-52 bombers.

You’re fired! Fresh from having his ex-girlfriend shot, Kim Jong Un gets rid of the head of his army.

US, Philippines reinforce defense ties.

Kashmir clash: 'Five militants' killed.

China to hold key economic reform meeting in November.

India's GDP shows continuing slowdown.

Manmohan Singh tries to quell fears over Indian economy.

China to investigate former security chief.

AFRICA

UN agencies see security deterioration in CAR. Thousands take refuge at CAR airport.

Death toll rises in Mali floods.

DR Congo rebels announce troop withdrawal. Congo rebels cease combat, pull back from frontline for probe.

New Egypt protests leave at least six dead. Egypt braces for protests despite crackdown. Brotherhood protests small and scattered in Egypt.

Tunisia closes south border regions for security.

At least 30 dead after slaughter in Nigeria.

Analysis: Grand Kenya port plan faces headwinds despite oil finds.

EUROPE

No plans for Putin-Obama meeting at G20 Summit – Kremlin aide.

PM vows to stand up for Gibraltar in dispute with Spain.

France says British vote does not change its will to act over Syria. France's Hollande backs US on Syria action.

Britain's Cameron: I don't need to apologize to Obama over Syria defeat.

Germany: No plans to join Syria military action.

Russia says it did not see US evidence of Syrian role behind alleged chemical weapons attack.

Ukraine's president 'unable to let Yulia Tymoshenko' to leave country.

Russia escalates dispute with Belarus after CEO's arrest. Russia threatens Belarus with oil supply cuts.

AMERICAS

Kerry says U.S. credibility on the line in Syria.


Cuba rejects US, NATO threat to attack Syria.

Obama may get France as ally in Syria fight after U.K. balks.

U.S. plans to release intelligence on Syria chemical attack on Friday: official.

NBC poll: Nearly 80 percent want congressional approval on Syria.

Half of Mexicans say drug violence worse under Pena Nieto: poll.


Colombia President calls troops to patrol capital.

Colombian Presidential hopeful under arrest.

Mexico says trafficker linked to kingpin Guzman behind 350 murders.

Inside El Salvador's secretive prison pits where notorious gangs are crammed together like livestock in cells the size of a shed.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Navy Seals guided from SPACE, a top secret lab that had Bin Laden's DNA and clandestine NSA operatives who bugged terrorist's phones: New details of Bin Laden raid leaked by Snowden.

Sources: Drone strikes in Yemen kill 6, including senior AQAP leaders.

Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Iraq bombings.

To hunt Osama bin Laden, satellites watched over Abbottabad, Pakistan, and Navy SEALs.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

BlackBerry sales hit by fears over company's future.

Apple launches trade-in program.

New data shows shifting US energy landscape, as petroleum exports soar.

New Nicaragua Canal may change global trade.

The new billion dollar industry you didn’t know existed.

Saudi Arabia's Military Now On 'High Alert'

Saudi Arabia Raises Military Alertness Over Syria -- Voice of America

DOHA — Saudi Arabia, a supporter of rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, has raised its level of military alertness in anticipation of a possible Western strike in Syria, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The United States has been calling for punitive action against Assad's government for a suspected poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people.

Saudi Arabia's defense readiness has been raised to "two" from "five," a Saudi military source who declined to be named told Reuters. "One" is the highest level of alert.

"It is a must, no one knows what will happen," he said.

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My Comment: I would wager that they have been alerted that a US military response against Syria is going to happen very soon.

Presidents Bush And Carter Comment On Syria



George W. Bush: Obama Has 'Tough Call' To Make On Syria -- USA Today

Former president George W. Bush weighed in tentatively on the situation in Syria on Friday, saying President Obama "has to make a tough call" on whether to order a military strike against Bashar Assad's regime.

Bush, who made his comments during an appearance on the Fox News Channel where he also discussed his recovery from a recent heart surgery as well as his charitable works, had his own frustrations with Assad during the eight years of his presidency.

Bush and his aides expressed frustration that Assad tacitly supported the flow of al-Qaeda fighters and arms into Iraq during the height of the anti-American insurgency there.

"I was not a fan of Mr. Assad," Bush said. "He's an ally of Iran, and he's made mischief."

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Update: As Obama considers Syria strikes, Bush and Carter weigh in -- CNN

WNU Editor
: More details on President Carter's comments are here.

President Obama Comments On Syria



Still Undecided, Obama Favors 'Limited, Narrow' Act in Syria -- ABC News

President Obama today said he has "not made any decisions" on whether to launch a military strike on Syria, but sought to assure the American public and the international community that if he does, it will be a "limited, narrow act."

"We're not considering any open-ended commitment," Obama said, adding, "In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign."

The president said that punishing Syria would send a message that the "international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban."

Alongside Vice President Joe Biden and leaders from Baltic nations, the president called the crisis in Syria "a challenge to the world."

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More News On President Obama's Comments On Syria

Obama says Syria chemical weapons attack threatens Israel, Jordan -- Reuters
Obama says he's considering 'narrow' Syria action -- AP
Obama says no final decision on Syria, but considering ‘limited, narrow’ action -- Washington Post/AP
Obama says action in Syria would be ‘limited, narrow’ -- Washington Post
Obama: Syria represents 'a challenge to the world' -- USA Today
Obama considering 'limited, narrow act' against Syria -- NBC
Obama Says Syrian Use of Chemical Arms a Challenge to the World -- Bloomberg
Syria: Obama Considers ‘Limited, Narrow’ Military Action -- Danger Room