Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making political hay out of terrorist haywires?

Thoughts, opinion and pure speculation about the latest terror threat and the politics that surround it.

By Steve Douglass

Let me ask you something. Am I the only one who thinks its convenient, just four days before a mid-term election (where it seems that the ruling political party is about to be handed their hat and shown the door) a new imminent terrorist threat has been uncovered?

Could it really just be a coincidence (or in the case of the Democrats and President Obama) a fortuitous gift from al Qaeda to have engineered such an amateurish and hopelessly flawed laser-printer-toner-cell-phone bomb plot (one so easily and publicly peeled apart) just in time to bolster the public image of the president and his party?

Now before you groan and write this off as the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist, consider the following:

Rarely are ongoing intelligence operations against terrorist organizations publicized or even acknowledged unless they involve the public. Cases in point, Richard Reed, “The Shoe Bomber” and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “The Underwear Bomber (and not to mention) Faisal Shahzad (the failed Times Square Bomber) all became known because their failed attacks took place in public places.

But for every plot we know about, there are ten disrupted plots – we'll probably never know about.

It's an intelligence agency maxim: Our failures are known – Our successes are not, because to reveal them would put undercover operatives in immediate danger, reveal sources of information and methods and methodologies used in the war against terror.

And yet – in this case – detailed photos and analysis of the devices involved have been splashed across the globe (in itself unprecedented) a new terrorist villian -Qassim al-Rimi (also known as Abu Hurira al-Sanaei of the Arabian Peninsula ) – has been connected to the plot, plus arrests have been made (in Yemen)- all within 48 hours.

Not to mention, the President has assured the nation that everything is under control and vowing (at a White House news conference, “to take whatever steps are necessary" to prevent an attack.”

Looking quite presidential (after recently being reality-checked by Jon Stewart) Obama said, “Going forward, we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with the Yemeni government to disrupt plotting by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and to destroy this al Qaeda affiliate.

There it is – a done deal. The voting public has been reassured by the commander-in-chief, vows to hunt down and punish evil doers have been made – and God is in is heaven and everything is right with the nation – tragedy averted – all just four days before an election.

So? This wouldn't be the first president to make political hay out of a threat to the nation? Right?

If you are still with me – I'd like to take this terrorist event to the next level – and analyze it from a different angle. One of practicality.

Keep in mind, what follows is pure speculation – but what if this entire event was engineered as a political ploy to influence the coming election?

DId I loose you?

Consider this:

How hard would it be to for an intelligence agency to buy a printer, fill the cartridge with PETN, improvise a crude cell phone trigger and have it shipped from Yemen and blame it on a new (hitherto unknown to the American public ) arm of al Qaeda.?

OB takes the credit, looks more presidential, Dem stock goes up a few points maybe even enough to save a few majority seats and the Republicans are forced to go begging again.

It may seem like a far fetched plot from a bad movie - but when examined closely is entirely plausible. Anyone ever hear of Tonkin Gulf? Watergate? Irangate?

This is what bugs me. The preliminary U.K. investigation indicates that the target may have been an aircraft, British Home Secretary Theresa May said,"authorities do not believe the perpetrators would have known the location of the device when they detonated it." - end quote.

If that is true, it doesn't sound like a particularly viable terrorist plan to me. 

If (as first reported) the devices were to be triggered by cell phones - it is also highly doubtful they would have worked - especially in flight in an aircraft over a vast ocean where cell services is non-existent. It is also very unlikely a cellular device could even pick up the signal from inside a metal box contained inside a metal aircraft with shielding being a major obstacle to cellular reception.

IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan are basically constructed the same way (except not hidden inside laser printers) and usually triggered by a confederate within safe line-of-site of the device. When it comes to standard IEDs the explosive of choice is usually a bomb or shell - bulky but with huge destructive power - and easily hidden inside a car or buried in the ground but with the antenna in radio line of sight of the perpetrator.

But the device shown on all the networks is different – as if it was devised by monkeys.

There is very little chance that it would have worked. Calling and triggering a cheap Chinese GSM phone on a cargo plane bound for the U.S. Is more than problematic.

Considering, cellular service (domestic and abroad) compatibility issues, battery life and the uncertainty of where any one of the devices could be at any given moment (plus throwing into the mix a host of technical and logistical obstacles) don't add up to a well-thought-out plot. It is more likely these bombs were intended to scare and not to kill.

As it looks now - the devices themselves and the unlikelyhood they would work seem also to be less a terrorist attack than a ploy.

At closer inspection the phone board used does not have GPS support and although it could have up to a 15 hour battery life - the trip from Yemen is a lot longer than that - not even considering warehousing time, even with the inclusion (as in the widely circulated photo) of a tiny nickle-cell battery.

Although it may seem a cell phone trigger would only have to passively receive a signal to detonate an explosive, they also have to transmit regularly (which is a large drain on a battery) and undertake a "handshake" with any cellphone system in range.

Even if the phone was programmed to turn itself on (at a certain time) ascertaining where it would be is practically impossible, especially if the intended target was an aircraft.

If not -and the intended target was a rabbi at a gay-friendly synagogue in Chicago (as suggested by other reports) who says it wouldn't have been quickly discovered by the intended target for what it was? Suspicious?

I imagine the following exchange, “Rabbi Rebinowitz – did you order a printer from Yemen? No? Call the police.”

I'm just spit-ballinghere but - wouldn't it be more effective to have the bombs go off if they were plugged into a wall - especially if jewish synagogues were the real intended target?

If this was an actual terrorist bomb plot - it was amateurish plot at best with almost zero probability of success.

The press is now reporting it was a "tip"(the package tracking numbers) from an "American" intelligence source that led to the device's discovery. Read into that what you will. 

Consider - the devices were also never on passenger planes so the most a terrorist could hope to do is down (if the target was an aircraft) an airplane with a few people on board.  Hardly a worthy target of an up and coming terrorist offshoot of al Qaeda.

From a terrorist's point of view – the act of downing a few cargo planes (unless they were over major cities) wouldn't have much of an economic or political impact on the U.S. and as President Obama recently said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack.”

UPDATE: Terrorist cargo may have been shipped on passenger planes - however the sender would never have known that.

So what would be the point? A dry run that only served to show how incompetent your bomb makers are?

Still, this plot (no matter how ineffectual) will draw some serious attention to Yemen and the AQAP. As a result of the President's remarks, it will also have the unintentional effect of raising Qassim al-Rim to new top-terrorist boogeyman status among Arabian extremists, above Osama Bin Laden.

Plus there are far reaching effects on poor Yemen, caught between the democratic West and the extremist East – where terrorist cells are imbedded like ticks and hiding within the government itself. Yemen has been walking the tightrope between the two ideologies ever since the attack on the USS Cole.

According to CNN: Many of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's members previously belonged to al Qaeda in Yemen. The National Counterterrorism Center says that group carried out suicide attacks on a Yemeni oil facility in 2006 and mortar attacks two years later on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, Yemeni military complexes, the Italian Embassy and the Yemeni presidential compound.

Later in 2008, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula detonated two car bombs outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, killing 19 people, including six of its own members. Earlier in the month, Qassim al-Rim promised that Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, would be punished "for his crimes" and announced that a new army would rid the country of "crusaders and apostates."

Earlier this year, the President approved $150 million to train and equip Yemeni forces so they could fight al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Up to 50 U.S. special operations troops are now in the Middle Eastern country training Yemen's military personnel and involved in counter-terrorism missions.

So – in light of all this – and as purely an exercise in skeptical thinking – who would benefit from concocting a faux-terrorist plot?

Let me think: the Democratic Party, on the eve of mid-terms, hoping the political tide can be turned back their way.

President Obama, his actions boosting his stature among hawkish Democrats and Republicans who think he's soft on terrorism.

The U.S. military and U.S. intelligence communities begging to be let off the chain to fight a war on terrorism full-out.

Or maybe it was al Qaeda - hoping to influence the election to keep the Democrats in power - not wanting war-mongering Republicans again at the helm.

Meanwhile back in reality the votes in next weeks election have already been cast in most people's minds - but the races could be closer then the polls are indicating and majority control could come down to one or two highly contested seats.

Every vote counts and maybe-just maybe an undecided voter (or scores of them) could be persuaded by recent events to jump off the fence they are sitting on and (in light of recent events) vote for a Democrat.

Update: as of the Sunday morning newscasts, polls indicate that the Democrats are narrowing the gap with some undecided voters now saying they will vote for Dems.

I'm sure there is tremendous pressure on Yemeni authorities, as well as the FBI and CIA to get this whole incident wrapped up in a nice tidy bow - before the election on Tuesday.

I must comment never have I seen such wide distributed and unfetterd media access to an ongoing terrorist-bug-hunt with almost real-time updates and expert evidential analysis, complete with circles and arrows and paragraphs explaining what each part is. This latest terrorist scare most likely would be classified as a non-event that most likely (although an important victory in counter-terrorism circles) would have never seen the light of day = if there wasn't for a looming election.

It seems to me – this incident has been rapidly and deliberately pushed to forefront of the public consciousness - all on the eve of a critical election - calculated to push the needle back into the Democrat win column.

Despite the crowing from the current administration - this incident can't be considered a win. The devices got on planes and it was only after they were airborne that they were discovered.

Was it a plot? Most definitely. Who's behind it? That remains to be seen.

The likelihood that this plot was hatched within the Beltway are slim indeed but it is something interesting to ponder. Imagine the implications if it was.

If it was a intelligence agency/think-tank/executive conspiracy it is bound to come unraveled as conspiracies are want to do.

Only time will tell.


Friday, October 29, 2010

US: New faction of al Qaeda behind bomb plot

(CNN) -- U.S. officials say that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a fairly new arm of the umbrella terrorist organization, is behind an apparent plot to send explosive devices to U.S. destinations via cargo planes.

"Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an organization of several hundred individuals that are dispersed throughout the country," presidential counterterrorism advisor John Brennan told reporters Friday. "They are murderers and they are determined to carry out attacks on innocent lives, whether they be Yemeni, Americans, Westerners or others. ...

"If anything, this just demonstrates to us and, I think to the Yemenis as well, that we need to redouble our efforts so that we're able to destroy al Qaeda, and we will."
Brennan pointed to the botched attempt last Christmas to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. U.S. and Yemeni officials have linked the attempt by man who tried to ignite explosives in his underwear to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.


Discovery Targeted to Launch Tuesday at 4:17 p.m.

Fri, 29 Oct 2010 08:27:55 AM CDT

The launch of space shuttle Discovery is targeted for Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 4:17 p.m. EDT.

Managers are meeting to discuss the plan to repair helium and nitrogen leaks in the pressurization portion of space shuttle Discovery’s right-hand Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) pod. The leaks must be fixed before launch and the decision was made to delay picking up the launch countdown by at least a day.

Since the scheduled launch day fell close to election day, NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding said the launch team members have been encouraged to take advantage of early voting or absentee ballot options so they could take part in the elections.

Obama: "credible terrorist threat"

CNN: WASHINGTON — Calling it a "credible terrorist threat," President Barack Obama said apparent explosive material was found on two U.S.-bound packages from Yemen, triggering searches of flights with other packages from Yemen and an investigation into whether al-Qaida was behind a new terror plot.
Sources told NBC News that both packages contained toner cartridges with wires and white powder. The devices were found in Britain and Dubai last night.

Obama: Yemen devices a 'credible terrorist threat'
Calling it a "credible terrorist threat," President Barack Obama said apparent explosive material was found on two U.S.-bound packages from Yemen. Full story

Homeland Security said in a statement it was taking new measures, "including heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."

A law enforcement official told NBC that the two packages were addressed to a synagogue and a Jewish community center in Chicago.
One U.S. official said authorities are investigating whether the incident was a dry run for a plot to send bombs through the mail delivery system.

Yemen is the home of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the offshoot branch that claimed responsibility for an attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner last Christmas.

One device was found during a stopover in Britain. A UPS cargo flight had been bound for Chicago but was at a British airport when the cartridge was spotted.

Officials found the suspicious item during basic security screening

In Chicago, synagogues were warned to be on alert Friday.
"We were notified this morning that synagogues should be on the alert," Linda Haase, associate vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told Reuters. "We are taking appropriate precautions and are advising local synagogues to do likewise."

TSA issues alert
The Transportation Security Administration earlier said that cargo flights that landed safely at Newark and Philadelphia airports were being searched after "reports of potentially suspicious items onboard."
Two jets in Philadelphia belonging to UPS were searched. A federal law enforcement official told the AP that nothing suspicious was found.

The flight that landed at Newark, N.J., also was a UPS cargo jet. After the jet was searched, officials gave the all clear.
In New York, an Emirates commercial flight arrived from Dubai around 3:30 p.m. ET and was also being searched as a precaution.
The flight is carrying one of some 15 packages from Yemen that the U.S. wants to inspect, WNBC said.

"This is only because there is cargo from Yemen on the flight," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko. "There is no known threat associated with this cargo or this flight."

Earlier Friday, a UPS truck was searched and then cleared in Brooklyn.


Spy budget released

Washington (CNN) -- The United States spent $80 billion on spy activities in 2010, the first time the government has officially announced the total tab for intelligence spending.

The amount included $53.1 billion on non-military intelligence programs, a 6 percent boost from the previous year, according to a statement released Thursday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The military spent an additional $27 billion on its intelligence apparatus, said Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan.

No further details were released.
The government is required by law to reveal the total amount of money spent to spy on other nations, terrorists and other groups by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the other agencies and offices that make up the 16-member intelligence community.

While the total intelligence spending has never formally been announced, this is the fourth year the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has released the national intelligence budget figure for non-military activities. The intelligence community had resisted efforts to reveal the number, arguing that enemies of the United States could learn valuable information by watching trends in spending.

The amount designated for military battlefield intelligence had remained classified. Last year, however then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair revealed to reporters the total cost for all intelligence gathering was $75 billion, and indicated the amount spent on strictly military intelligence was approximately $25 billion.

At the urging of the commission set up to investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a law in 2007 mandating public disclosure of the non-military spending number at the end of each fiscal year. Specific details on how much each agency spends and on what remain classified.
The current director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had said at his confirmation hearings this past summer that the budgets for both strategic intelligence and military spying should be officially made public.
The head of the Senate Intelligence committee said it is time to pare down non-military intelligence spending, which has doubled since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

"Given the nation's financial situation, it is my view that the intelligence budget needs to be carefully reviewed and that cuts will be necessary," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

The senator indicated there is waste and duplication within the budget and added, "It is clear that the overall spending on intelligence has blossomed to an unacceptable level in the past decade."
Approximately 100,000 people work on national intelligence, with the majority of employees serving at the big four intelligence agencies: the National Security Agency, the CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The United States spent $49.8 billion on its national intelligence programs in 2009, $47.5 billion in 2008 and $43.5 billion in 2007, according to the previous reports.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Breaking: DC Metro terror plot foiled

By Peter Finn, Spencer S. Hsuand Caitlin Gibson
Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, October 28, 2010
Federal law enforcement authorities arrested a Northern Virginia man Wednesday in connection with an alleged plot to carry out terrorist bombings at stations in the Washington Metro system.

Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn conspired with people he thought to be al-Qaeda operatives to bomb the Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon City, Crystal City and Court House stations, according to a federal indictment.

An Obama administration official said Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, first drew the attention of law enforcement officials by seeking to obtain unspecified materials. He later became the target of an undercover sting, officials said.

According to the indictment, federal agents posing as Islamic radicals began meeting with Ahmed in April. At the meetings, held in Northern Virginia hotels, he allegedly agreed to conduct video surveillance of the stations and suggested the best time to attack and the best locations to place explosives to maximize casualties. He is also accused of later turning over video and sketches he made of the stations.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are we failing in Afghanistan?

An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan.

Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells. But officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July.

"The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience," said a senior Defense Department official involved in assessments of the war. Taliban elements have consistently shown an ability to "reestablish and rejuvenate," often within days of routed by U.S. forces, the official said, adding that if there is a sign that momentum has shifted, "I don't see it."


Glitch takes nukes offline

(F. E. WARREN AFB, Wyo.) -- About 50 nuclear missiles at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming went offline for about 45 minutes during the weekend. The missiles were taken offline while Air Force officers tried to correct a hardware glitch that had some of the missiles pinging incorrect messages.

Officials stress that there was no compromise in security nor in the launch capability of the missiles, and that President Obama could have launched the missiles if he needed to. Officials added that nothing was compromised because there are many ways in which the missiles can be launched.

WASHINGTON - A computer glitch took 50 U.S. nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles offline for 45 minutes on Oct. 23, a Pentagon official said.

The problem was apparently a hardware malfunction, said the official, an Air Force officer with knowledge of the event who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Air Force Global Strike Command has 450 Minutemen III ICBMs in bases located in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

Of these, there was a "communication disruption" in which the Air Force lost communication with 50 ICBMs located at F.E. Warren Air Force base in Wyoming.

"The whole episode lasted three-quarters of an hour," the officer said.

On Oct. 26, investigators discovered that similar incidents had happened at other sites more than a decade ago, so they are focusing on the hardware.

"It looks to be a mechanical problem with a particular part," the officer said.

"As soon as it happened, there was a security check of every missile site" - by video camera and in person - "and there was no apparent damage to any equipment."

"We have no indication of any malicious or intentional activity that would have caused this - it looks to be mechanical," the officer said.

The other squadrons with 50 missiles each at Warren were unaffected, as were the 300 ICBMs at the Montana and North Dakota bases, the officer said.

Aside from the 450 land-based nuclear missiles, the U.S. military can also deliver nuclear missiles from airplanes or launch them from submarines.

President Barack Obama was briefed about the event early Oct. 27 - after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CBS News reported.

Pentagon bracing for more leaks

Washington (CNN) -- The Pentagon is bracing for the release of more secrets by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, a Pentagon official said Tuesday, as the Defense Department drafts a new plan to securely distribute and protect military and other information.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said WikiLeaks has more Defense Department material beyond what site founder Julian Assange has admitted publicly to possessing.
"We believe that WikiLeaks has in its possession additional documents that may be released in the future," Lapan told reporters at a briefing. "They still have the 15,000 documents from Afghanistan. They still have a video from Afghanistan. Those are things they have talked about publicly."
"And we have reason to believe they have other documents as well," he added, without elaborating.

The military has charged Pfc. Bradley Manning with leaking video to WikiLeaks, as well as downloading documents from military computers while he served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Among the documents he is alleged to have taken are 150,000 diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks has denied being in possession of those cables. Manning is currently being held at a military jail in Quantico, Virginia.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

A few more of the Amarillo Super Sabre

All photos by Steve Douglass

Last flight ...

Short video showing the installation of a vintage Vietnam era F-100 Super Sabre at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial on South Georgia street today.

This is something you don't see every day...

AN F-100 Sabre always has the right-of-way at an intersection. å

Wikileaks publishes more classified war documents

London, England (CNN) -- Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the Iraqi and U.S. governments to launch investigations into reports of torture and detainee abuse after the WikiLeaks website published thousands of classified military documents detailing the war in Iraq.

The release includes evidence that Iraqi security forces tortured and killed prisoners, the group said. Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to prosecute those responsible.
It also urged the U.S. government to look into whether its forces broke international law by transferring thousands of detainees to Iraqi custody despite what Human Rights Watch called "the clear risk of torture."

"These new disclosures show torture at the hands of Iraqi security forces is rampant and goes completely unpunished," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It's clear that U.S. authorities knew of systematic abuse by Iraqi troops, but they handed thousands of detainees over anyway."

Also Saturday, anti-war activists said at a news conference that the WikiLeaks release revealed that 15,000 more Iraqi civilians died during the conflict than previously thought.
Video: Iraq reacts to WikiLeaks Video: Activists cite higher death toll Video: WikiLeaks under fire Video: Protecting U.S. contacts
"We have seen that there are approximately 15,000 never previously documented or known cases of civilians who have been killed by violence in Iraq," WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Brit sub in a bit of a pickle ...

London, England (CNN) -- A recently-christened British submarine foundered off the coast of a Scottish island when it got caught in rocks, the Ministry of Defense said Friday.
"We are aware of an incident involving one of our submarines off the Isle of Skye," a spokesman told CNN.

"This is a not a nuclear incident. We are responding to the incident and can confirm that there are no injuries to personnel and the submarine remains watertight. There is no indication of any environmental impact."
The sub is HMS Astute, described by the ministry as Britain's "most powerful attack submarine."
The craft is a "highly complex feat of naval engineering" that is "at the very cutting-edge of technology, with a suite of sensors and weapons required to pack a powerful punch," the ministry said.

The submarine was undertaking sea trials when it ran aground. People were transported out of the craft. The ministry emphasized that only a part of the submarine was stuck.

The ministry said the sub can carry a mix of up to 38 Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles.
Britain's Press Association reports that "it is understood that the submarine's crew is waiting for high tide so they could free the vessel."

Ask Monica - Clinton looses nuclear codes card.

CNN) -- A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says in a new book that while Bill Clinton was in the White House, a key component of the president's nuclear launch protocol went missing.
"The codes were actually missing for months. This is a big deal," says Gen. Hugh Shelton. "We dodged a silver bullet."

In his book "Without Hesitation," the retired Army general writes, "Even though movies may show the President wearing these codes around his neck, it's pretty standard that they are safeguarded by one of his aides, but that aide sticks with him like glue." He adds that President Clinton "assumed, I'm sure, that the aide had them like he was supposed to."

What apparently was missing was a card with code numbers on it that allows the president to access a briefcase -- called the "football" and kept by an aide always near the president -- containing instructions for launching a nuclear attack.

Once a month, Defense Department officials conduct an in-person verification to make sure the president has the right codes. At least twice in a row, Shelton writes, a White House aide told the Pentagon checker that the president was in a meeting but gave a verbal assurance that the codes were with him.

`Then one month around the year 2000, according to Shelton, when the time came to replace the codes with a new set, "the president's aide said neither he nor the president had the codes -- they had completely disappeared."
Shelton writes that all this happened very likely without Clinton's knowledge.

CNN called and e-mailed a spokesman for President Clinton Thursday, but there was no immediate response.

Fran Townsend, who served as homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush and who is a CNN contributor on national security issues, said Thursday, "I can't imagine a more serious breach, if something like that were ever to be lost or be compromised.

"That's the command and control capability of the president to launch a nuclear attack."
But if an unauthorized person found or obtained the codes, she said, it is very unlikely that they could execute a launch, because they are only one part of the launch protocol. Another part of that protocol is the "football," containing the actual launch instructions. Townsend said it's a multi-layered system.

"Even if you had a piece that was required, it would be very difficult for one person to execute the command and control of this thing," Townsend said. "There are plenty of things to be concerned about. I just find it difficult to imagine somebody could execute this thing, if they found a piece to it."

Shelton says the president was given new codes within minutes when the previous codes could not be found, and the procedures have since been changed, so that the Pentagon aide who carries out the monthly check is required to wait at the White House until he or she can visually confirm the codes are in the possession of the president or an aide who is with him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shooter took six potshots at Pentagon

Washington (CNN) -- More bullets struck the Pentagon in a shooting Tuesday than initially thought, officials said.

"It has been determined that at least six shots were fired," Steven Calvery, director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said in a statement Wednesday. "As previously stated, two exterior windows were impacted by bullets. Upon investigation, it has been determined that four other bullets hit the Pentagon's facade."

Calvery said the investigation was ongoing and the FBI was evaluating evidence, including video footage from the Pentagon and surrounding buildings and roads as well as ballistics.

On Tuesday, Calvery told reporters he thought the shooting, which took place early Tuesday at the Defense Department's headquarters, was "a random incident."
"We are looking at all the possibilities," he said. "What we have is an isolated incident so far."

Pentagon police officers as well as construction workers in the area heard at least five shots fired around 4:50 a.m. Tuesday, Pentagon officials said. By midday, authorities had found two bullet fragments in third- and fourth-floor windows on the south side of the building, Calvery said. That part of the building is in the process of being renovated and was empty at the time of the shooting.

The incident prompted a 40-minute shutdown of the entire Pentagon, and authorities conducted an interior sweep of the building shortly after 6 a.m.
Calvery said authorities were unsure who fired the shots and with what kind of gun, though he said he believes they came from a rifle.

A portion of Interstate 395 -- which runs along the south side of the Pentagon -- was also shut down temporarily to conduct a search in the investigation.
Tuesday's shooting followed a similar incident overnight Sunday at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, near the entrance of Marine Corps Base Quantico.

Lin Ezell, the museum's director, said Tuesday that investigators have determined that one or more assailants used rifles to fire 10 bullets at the building -- five hitting glass windows, the rest hitting metal panels.

Authorities haven't pinned down where the shots were fired from though they believe they came from Interstate 95 or nearby.

No one was hurt in that incident, which occurred between 12:15 and 5 a.m. when the building was unoccupied, Ezell said. No one has claimed responsibility, and there were no known threats before the shooting, she added. Military police and the Prince William County police are investigating that incident.
Tuesday's shooting was the first such incident at the Defense Department headquarters since March when John Patrick Bedell pulled a gun from his pocket and began shooting. Bedell, who had a history of mental health problems, was later shot and killed, while two Pentagon police officers received superficial injuries.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CIA suing one of its REDs.

Washington (CNN) -- The CIA has filed a civil suit against a former spy who published a book critical of the agency without the necessary review of the material by the agency, in violation of a secrecy agreement.

The legal action is being taken against Ishmael Jones, the pen name for a nearly 20-year veteran of the CIA who, he says, worked deep undercover overseas, mostly in Arabic-speaking nations. In 2008, he published "The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture," under his pseudonym.

In a statement released Tuesday, the CIA said "Jones" violated the secrecy agreement he voluntarily signed as a condition of employment.

"Although Jones submitted his manuscript to the Agency's Publications Review Board (PRB) as his secrecy agreement requires, he did not let that review process run its course and instead published in defiance of the Board's initial disapproval," said the CIA statement.

Jones' real identity remains classified, mainly to protect the sources he worked with as a covert officer overseas.

Jones, who was contacted by CNN through his website, does not dispute the fact he went ahead and published his book in violation of his agreement, but says he did so after the PRB sent back a heavily redacted manuscript "which was essentially a stake of blank pages with a sentence every 10 pages or so."

"I decided to defy censors as a whistleblower in order to expose something that puts Americans at risk," Jones told CNN.

He said his book, which remains available online, contains no classified information, but it "exposes the CIA as a place to get rich, with billions of taxpayer dollars wasted or stolen in espionage programs that produce nothing."

In his book, Jones claimed that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress gave the CIA $3.5 billion to train and deploy more covert officers overseas, but the money was instead spent on contractors, buildings and personnel in the United States. He said 90 percent of CIA employees live in the U.S. where they are mostly ineffective.

"We need financial accountability and whistleblower systems to stop tremendous waste and theft," he said.

The CIA statement said the pre-publication review is "an indispensable tool to protect intelligence sources, methods and activities. In publishing without authorization, he (Jones) risked disclosure of classified information."

The suit seeks the recovery of all profits from the book and an injunction against Jones further violating his secrecy agreement.
Jones questioned the timing of the suit since his book has made very little money.

"The conventional wisdom is that the CIA is wise to ignore a critic because to do otherwise merely gives the critic publicity," he said.
Mark Zaid, a lawyer who has handled many pre-publication challenges but who is not involved in this case, agreed that the lawsuit could have the perverse effect of creating sales. However Zaid said he believes the CIA is sending a message to the growing number of former intelligence officers who are writing books and appearing in the media.

"The message by the CIA--and I'm surprised it took so long--is telling former officers and employees there is a process to follow and you don't make the decision on what is or is not classified," said Zaid.

Breaking: Pentagon locked down: shots fired.

WASHINGTON — Police were searching Monday for the source of potential gunshots fired near the Pentagon, though operations were back to normal after they found nothing suspicious, a spokesman said.

Pentagon police officers heard about four or five gunshots around 4:55 am (0855 GMT) fired at or near the south parking lot of the massive Defense Department headquarters, Pentagon Force Protection Agency spokesman Chris Layman told AFP.

They locked down the area, along with all of the Pentagon's entrances before conducting sweeps of the area, including a canine search with local police.
"They did not find anything," Layman said.
"They're investigating it right now, they're not sure what happened right now."

By 6:00 am (1000 GMT), all Pentagon entrances were reopened and operations were back to normal, he added

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finally the truth about Area 51 ; )

Pentagon plumbers bracing for new Wikileaks

The US military has assembled a 120-member team to prepare for the expected publication of some 400,000 Iraq war documents on the Wikileaks website.

The documents are thought to concern battle activity, Iraqi security forces and civilian casualties.

The Pentagon said it wants the documents back to avoid potentially damaging information being released.

The timing is unclear but it would dwarf Wikileaks' July publication of more than 70,000 Afghan war files.

Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan said the team was reviewing the files on the Iraq war to discover what the possible impact of the Wikileaks release could be.

Col Lapan said the files were from an Iraq-based database that contained "significant acts, unit-level reporting, tactical reports, things of that nature".

He said the Pentagon did not know the timing of the leak but they were preparing for it to be as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Other sources said it may come later in the month.

'Smear campaign'
Col Lapan said the files should be returned to the Pentagon because "we don't believe Wikileaks or others have the expertise needed. It's not as simple as just taking out names. There are other things and documents that aren't names that are also potentially damaging."

Wikileaks' release in July of thousands of documents on the war in Afghanistan prompted US military officials to warn that the whistleblower website might cause the deaths of US soldiers and Afghan civilians because some of the documents contained the names of locals who had helped coalition forces.

But US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in a letter to the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the leak had not revealed any "sensitive intelligence sources or methods".

There have been fears that such leaks could damage US intelligence sharing with other nations as well as intelligence sharing between US agencies.

The investigation into the Afghan leak has focused on Bradley Manning, a US army intelligence analyst who is in custody and has been charged with leaking a classified video of a US helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007 in which a dozen people were killed.

The Wikileaks website is currently offline "undergoing scheduled maintenance". Founder Julian Assange is being investigated in Sweden over an alleged sex crime.

He denies the charge and says the the allegations are part of a smear campaign by opponents of his whistle-blowing website.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smoking gun- NK parade reveals Iranian missile ties.

Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine:

The North Korean military parade last weekend does more than give world exposure to the heir apparent to Pyongyang’s leadership. It also revealed a new road-mobile ballistic missile – a variant of the BM-25 Musudan with a projected range of 3,000-4,000 km.

More intriguing, North Korea’s weaponry is showing design characteristics associated with the Shahab 3, Iran’s most advanced missile. Such evidence is leading some international analysts to the conclusion that the ballistic missile development ties between the two countries is active and producing improvements in the arsenals of both countries.

While it would seem doubtful that complete missiles or missile sections are being shipped – given the close scrutiny by the West of North Korea shipping – components and engineering data could move relatively easily by air and diplomatic pouch.

For years, Iran has been the junior partner in the relationship and used the conduit to acquire No-dong and other missile technologies to build its own systems. Now, Israeli officials have noted the first public emergence in North Korea of the BM-25 Musudan, a weapon they believe has already been supplied to Iran.

It is believed to the first time the road-mobile, liquid-fueled intermediate range ballistic missile has been shown to anyone outside the North Korean military. The public unveiling took place Oct. 10 during a military parade attended by the country’s leader, Kim Jung-il, and his son and apparent leader-designate, Kim Jung-un.

The BM-25 is a derivative of the Russian-designed, SS-N-6 submarine-launched ballistic missile, although it has been increased in length to add range. North Korea showed several of the missile and wheeled launchers during the parade, although the operational status remains uncertain owing to a lack of flight trials detected by outside observers. The range is estimated between 3,000 km to 4000 km depending on warhead mass.

The parade also showcased a No-dong ballistic missile with a tri-conic nosecone. That configuration is typically associated with Iran’s Shahab-3, causing some analysts to suggest technical information gleaned by Tehran in flight trials is being fed to Pyongyang. Such a move would suggest Iran has made considerable progress in developing its indigenous missile engineering expertise.

The latest Iranian ballistic missile developments indicate the missiles “are much more sophisticated and reliable than the [early] Scud designs,” says Arieh Herzog, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization. “The inertial navigation systems are better and improved guidance in the final phase makes some of them accurate to without about 100 meters.”

The migration of the BM-25 to Iran has major security implications for Europe, since it would give Tehran the ability to strike targets in southern Europe. For Israel, the introduction of the BM-25 would have relatively modest impact on its strategic calculation, since Iran already has the ability to strike Israeli cities with ballistic missiles, but it would allow Iran to disperse its launchers over a much larger area in the eastern part of the country

Pantex dismantling B53 nukes.

A U.S. Department of Energy agency has authorized Pantex, the country’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly plant, to begin work dismantling B53 bombs.

A National Nuclear Security Administration statement Wednesday said once the bombs arrive at the plant near Amarillo the high explosives inside will be physically separated from the nuclear material before the material and components will be processed, which includes sanitizing, recycling, and disposal.

The bomb, each about the size of a minivan and weighing about 10,000 pounds, joined the nation’s stockpile in 1962 and was retired in 1997, the statement reads.

The B53 is among the longest-lived weapons ever used, the statement reads.

Other than Pantex - several classified weapons storage sites are rumored to have B53s in stockpile including the Manzano Nuclear Weapons Storage Base (Site Able) near Albuquerque and "Area II" on the Nellis AFB range.

UFOs over NYC - probably a publicity stunt.

New York Police and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) were fairly busy with incoming calls claiming of a UFO hovering over Manhattan, near Chelsea on Wednesday. Sources say around 1pm (local time), calls begin to pour alleging that there were a group of silver objects floating high over the city.

According to the NY Daily News, a spokesperson for the FAA stated, “We re-ran radar to see if there was anything there that we can’t account for, but there is nothing in the area”.

Meanwhile, many people crowed the streets to have a look at the mysterious flying object. Many on the scene gave their take on the mystery. One man jokingly said, “Maybe its superman”, while others believe it could be balloons.

Authorities are also aiming towards balloons as the explanation for this bizarre incident, but as of late Wednesday had not been confirmed. Many are linking this to a book publication made by a former N.O.R.A.D (North American Aerospace Defense Command) officer, who predicted that UFOs would appear in major cities around the country on October 13.

Nighthawks flying again? Speculation to follow:

On many aviation sites (including Dreamland Resort) there have been posts about recent sightings of the (thought to be retired) venerable F-117 Nighthawk flying on the Nellis and Area 51 classified ranges.

Could it be that several F-117s have been taken out of storage to practice for a special mission - one that required stealth and precision bombing?

Let's speculate for a moment -

Well - maybe - just maybe it is being readied to destroy a hardened (underground) target in a rogue nation that is known to have nuclear weapons. Why a F-117? Couldn't a B-2 do the job?

Sure - but B-2s exist in the white world now. Any movement, deployment and sudden appearance of a B-2 at a forward base would be noted. A B-2 is also a strategic weapon-and not really a tactical one.

So how about an F-22?

Great airplane - but not really a bomber - yet. Fast, stealthy and deadly, sure - but to destroy a hardened target -covertly - what is needed is a medium stealthy aircraft that can carry bunker-busting and deep penetration bombs. The F-22 doesn't quite fit the bill and the FB-22 hasn't been built - yet.

Still - the F-117 has a meager two bomb capacity bomb bay - not quite what would call a medium bomber.

But wait - recently photos have surfaced on the net showing wind tunnel tests of an F-117 model with stealthy weapons pods attached under the wings, effectively doubling the Nighthawks kill capacity.

Me thinks something may be in the wind - or (because the sightings have been undertaken in daylight) that the Pentagon wants to make an enemy to "think" something may be in the wind.

Only time will tell.

Even if it is enough to make Kim Jong Un and Amanutjob loose some sleep - I'm happy.

- SD

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Iran prosecuting five "spies"

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran will prosecute five people who allegedly spied for foreign countries, the country's semi-official FARS news agency reported Wednesday.
Tehran Attorney General Ja'afari Dolatabadi did not give a date for the trial but said the five would face court "soon."

One alleged spy is a 28-year-old who used to work in the aviation and space industries and had "gathered some information," Dolatabadi told FARS.
Another has a masters degree and was "very familiar with Tehran's important issues and had gathered some information for foreigners," he said.

The third case involves a 33-year old who also had a masters degree and had been in touch with "foreign agencies," received large sums of money in dollars and cash, and had tried to take information out of the country, Dolatabadi said.

Another person, who is 42, "had connections with information agencies of an enemy country," and the fifth had gathered "useful" information about Iran's defense and financial sectors and given it to "enemies," Dolatabadi told FARS.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Israel to buy JSF

Tel Aviv - After nearly eight years of politically charged evaluation and negotiation, followed by acrimonious cost-benefit deliberations within the Israeli Cabinet, it is now official: The Israel Air Force will become the first non-partner nation to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Under a Pentagon-proposed Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) signed Oct. 7 by Israeli Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Shani, MoD Director-General, Israel will acquire the first 20 U.S. Air Force-configuration F-35Is, beginning in 2015

The entire package is priced at $2.75 billion and includes engines, simulators, spare parts and maintenance; all of which will be funded over several years through annual U.S. military assistance. In a prepared statement, MoD noted that flyaway cost for each of the 20 aircraft and their engines, once non-recurring development costs are subtracted, translates into $96 million per plane.

"This is an historic event; a new era for defensive and strategic might of Israel and the preservation of its military edge against challenges near and far for many years to come," Shani said at the Oct. 7 signing ceremony.

Shani said the acquisition was tremendously important to Israel's national economy, given commitments by prime contractor Lockheed Martin and other major industry partners to grant "billions of dollars" worth of related work to local industry.

The top MoD executive added that Israel intended to purchase additional JSF squadrons. "It's not for nothing that we have options for additional aircraft," Shani said.

He was referring to the Pentagon's original notification to Congress, as well as a side industrial participation agreement with Lockheed Martin, that allows for Israeli purchase of up to 75 of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft.

"We're very pleased with the government of Israel's decision to move forward with the [LOA] for the F-35," said Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of F-35 program integration.

Lockheed noted that Israel will be the first foreign military sales customer for the F-35.

"This is another step in the longstanding relationship between Lockheed Martin and the nation of Israel. The Lightning II will strengthen Israel's national security posture both militarily and industrially."

U.S. participants in the event at MoD's Purchasing Mission in New York City were Heidi Grant, deputy Air Force undersecretary for international affairs; Vice Adm. David Venlet, JSF program executive officer; Karen Garvey from the Defense Security and Cooperation Agency and Ralph Heath of prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

Meanwhile in "News of the future": Iran's nuclear facilities blow up suddenly, seemingly by themselves.

Why don't they just call it "O" for Osama?

(CNN) -- The second edition of an online al Qaeda magazine has surfaced with frank essays, creatively designed imagery and ominous terror tips such as using a pickup truck as a weapon and shooting up a crowded restaurant in Washington.
The magazine is called "Inspire" and intelligence officials believe that an American citizen named Samir Khan, now living in Yemen, is the driving force behind the publication.

The latest edition was emerged on the 10th anniversary of the suicide attack on the guided missile destroyer USS Cole -- struck as it refueled in Aden, Yemen. The first edition came out in July.

Christopher Boucek, a Yemen expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the timing is no coincidence.
"It also comes on the heels of a busy week for al Qaeda in Yemen. They released an hourlong video last week. There was also an attack on a British Convoy in Sanaa [Yemen's capital] last week. And an audiotape was released two days ago. Al Qaeda in Yemen is good at amplifying its message and that shows the organization is still active, that they're still able to function," he said.

An article titled "The Ultimate Mowing Machine" calls for using a pickup truck as a "mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah."
The article says that such a plan could be implemented in countries where people back the "Israeli occupation of Palestine, the American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq or countries that had a prominent role in the defamation of Muhammad."
It said a four-wheel-drive pickup truck is needed -- "the stronger the better."

"To achieve maximum carnage, you need to pick up as much speed as you can while still retaining good control of your vehicle in order to maximize your inertia and be able to strike as many people as possible in your first run," the article says.
Another tip in the magazine includes the use of firearms.

"For this choose the best location. A random hit at a crowded restaurant in Washington DC at lunch hour, for example, might end up knocking out a few government employees.

"Targeting such employees is paramount and the location would also give the operation additional media attention."
An idea in the first edition, "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," is touched on again.

"The pressurized cooker should be placed in crowded areas and left to blow up. More than one of these could be planted to explode at the same time. However, keep in mind that the range of the shrapnel in this operation is short range so the pressurized cooker or pipe should be placed close to the intended targets and should not be concealed from them by barriers such as walls."

Adam Raisman, senior analyst at SITE Intelligence Group, said the "very well-presented magazine" covers a variety of topics, is meant to reach a wider audience, and tries to be tongue-in-cheek in its presentation.

"The magazine has suggestions, ideology it attempts to instill in the reader, and it includes tips for technology," Raisman said.
Boucek said the "big takeaway" is that the magazine is focusing on what the individual can do.

"The message to the lone actor is to be patient -- that you can do it -- you can participate in this," he said.

There are writings in the magazine by Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who U.S. authorities have linked to the failed attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner in December. Samir Khan wrote an article titled "I Am Proud to be a Traitor to America."

There is also recycled material. The latest issue includes recent commentary from Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who is an American, about President Barack Obama.

Monday, October 11, 2010

UK aid worker may have been killed by rescuers' grenade

David Cameron: "Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors, as originally believed"
British aid worker Linda Norgrove may have been accidentally killed by US forces during a rescue mission in Afghanistan, David Cameron has said.

International forces there originally said the 36-year-old died on Friday when one of her captors detonated a suicide vest.

But the prime minister said new details had come to light suggesting her death may have resulted from a US grenade.

He said he had spoken to her family about the "deeply distressing" news.

Mr Cameron said he was told of the new developments in a phone call from Gen David Petraeus, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, on Monday morning.

He said the general had told him US forces were deeply dismayed at the outcome and said it was "deeply regrettable" that information published on Saturday about Ms Norgrove was highly likely to have been incorrect.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Nicholas Witchell in Kabul said British officials there were "dumbfounded" and he expected them to be "angry at this turn of events".

He added: "It raises questions about the manner of the assault; it raises questions about the way in which the American media operation has disseminated this suggestion that she died at the hands of her captors quite unequivocally for 48 hours."

"It appears there has been a review of the surveillance footage that the Americans have, together with discussions with members of the rescue team, that they cannot 'conclusively determine' - that's their phrase - how Linda Norgrove did in fact meet her death."

He said there had been no suggestion during the past 48 hours the US forces had used grenades - and in this case potential shrapnel grenades - until now.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall added the latest developments would raise questions over UK and US relations and the possibility there was an attempt to cover up the circumstances of Ms Norgrove's death.

'Chaotic circumstances'
But Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said there had been no attempt to cover up the truth about the rescue operation.

He said: "That was us acting at all stages on the best information that we had supplied to us. But we will have an investigation and we will try and establish as far as is possible, in what sound like completely chaotic circumstances, precisely what happened."

At the Downing Street press conference, Mr Cameron defended the rescue mission, saying it had his full support as Ms Norgrove had been in "grave danger".

He said: "The decision to launch this rescue operation was not an easy one. But I am clear that Linda's life was in grave danger from the moment she was taken.

"Those on the ground and in London feared that she was going to be passed up the terrorist chain which would increase further the already high risk that she would be killed."

Mr Cameron said 12 meetings of the government emergencies committee, Cobra, had taken place before Foreign Secretary William Hague and the US agreed the rescue attempt should go ahead. His decision was then approved by the prime minister.

It had been thought that Ms Norgrove had been killed by her abductors just as US forces reached the compound in which she was being held in Afghanistan.

Linda Norgrove was seized in the province of Kunar on 26 September
But at the start of the press conference, Mr Cameron said it had since emerged that she may have died as a result of a US grenade being detonated during the rescue.

Mr Cameron said it had not yet been confirmed that was the case but a full US/UK investigation - which will last several days - was being launched. The results are expected to be made public.

"We must get to the bottom of what happened, first of all so the family gets this information and knows exactly how their wonderful daughter died," he said.

Mr Cameron told the press conference: "My thoughts and the thoughts of the whole country are with them, as they come to terms with the death of their daughter and this deeply distressing development.

"Linda's death is a tragedy for her family and those who worked alongside her in Afghanistan. She was a dedicated professional doing a job she loved in a country she loved."

'More time'
Speaking from the Isle of Lewis, Mr Norgrove said: "We are not saying anything to the press at the moment. We might issue a statement in another day or two, we're not certain, but now we are not saying anything."

Mr Cameron added that Ms Norgrove, who was seized in the province of Kunar on 26 September, was being held in remote and high mountains, making the rescue operation very difficult.

Three local staff were also kidnapped alongside Ms Norgrove when the two cars they were travelling in were ambushed. The staff were released unharmed last week.

The Briton, who was employed by US aid group DAI, is believed to have been taken by her captors from village to village as British, Afghan and other intelligence agencies searched the remote area.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul said tribal elders negotiating her release had asked Nato not to intervene, to insure they had more time to secure a release.

And an Afghan intelligence official told the BBC the US had ignored local police and intelligence recommendations supporting this course of action.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let them eat cake ...

Pyongyang, North Korea (CNN) -- North Korea's increasingly reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, made a rare public appearance with his youngest son Sunday at a massive military parade billed as one of the largest in the nation.
Dignitaries from around the world, including China, Russia, Nepal, Poland, Austria and Mongolia, attended the event.

Officials said 20,000 military personnel took part. They marched in lockstep as huge pieces of military hardware -- including tanks and missiles -- rolled along the parade route as part of celebration marking the 65th anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea.
Thousands of military personnel erupt into applause and chants as the Kims appeared in the capital to start the parade.

"It's an annual holiday, but in effect this is an elaborate coming out party for the man who will be the next leader," said CNN's Alina Cho, referring to Kim's youngest son.
The parade began in the Kim Il Sung Square, named for Kim Jong Il's father and North Korea's founder.
Gallery: Life inside North Korea
Video: Kim Jong Un demystified Video: 'A freaky, freaky trip' Video: North Korea's next leader? Video:

The United States believes Kim Jong Un has been tapped to replace his ailing father as North Korea's leader.

Little is known about Kim Jong Un. He is thought to be 27 or 28, is believed to have been schooled abroad and is thought to be capable of speaking some English and German, and possibly some French. He is said to have a fondness for Michael Jordan and James Bond.
In a move that surprised North Korea observers, Kim Jong Un appeared to be wearing civilian clothes instead of his military uniform and medals, even though he had been named a four-star general last month.

"This is ... Kim Jong Il trying to make sure that senior military officers are not offended by someone who just got his start," said Gordon Chang, a North Korea expert and columnist for "It shows he needs to massage this process."
In a rare embrace of the media, Pyongyang invited about 60 journalists from around the world to cover the weekend's festivities, Cho said.

"We were quite hastily invited at the middle of last week," she said. "We knew something big was happening but we weren't entirely sure what."

Cho said that security is tight and that even the news media's government minders are being checked by security personnel -- along with Cho's notebook and pen.
Sunday's parade encompassed units of the three services of the Korean People's Army -- the Korean People's Internal Security Forces, the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards -- according to North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency.

On Saturday, Kim and his heir apparent appeared at Pyongyang's May Day Stadium as part of the Arirang celebration. The event featured hundreds of gymnastics and dance performances. Participants spent up to eight hours a day training and preparing for the occasion.
Performers danced enthusiastically for the crowd in the packed stadium. Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un could be seen sitting in a private box removed from the masses, flanked by military officials.

Electricity was on throughout Pyongyang on Saturday, Cho said, an unusual occurrence in power-starved North Korea.
The spare-no-expense celebration will likely be frowned upon by many ordinary North Koreans, Chang said.

"With the North Korean economy trending downwards, with poverty and destitution, there's got be the question of the nature of the regime," he said. "They're going to look at this and say, 'Why don't I have clean water? Why don't I have food? How can they afford all of this?'"

Chinese President Hu Jintao sent Kim Jong Il a congratulatory message Saturday, commending the party for "overcoming difficulties and risks and arduously struggling to continuously make eye-catching achievements in its socialist revolution and construction cause," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as saying.

Hu also praised the relationship between North Korea and China, and pledged to make "it an unswerving policy to continuously strengthen and develop bilateral friendly and cooperative ties."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cowards kill woman aid worker during rescue attempt

A UK aid worker held hostage after being kidnapped in Afghanistan has been killed during a rescue attempt, the Foreign Office has said.

Linda Norgrove, 36, from Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland, was employed by US aid group DAI. She was seized with three local staff on 26 September.

Their two-car convoy was ambushed in the eastern province of Kunar.

Ms Norgrove was killed by her captors on Friday during a rescue mission by US forces.

The Briton is believed to have been taken by her captors from village to village as British, Afghan and other intelligence agencies worked in the remote and mountainous area of Kunar province to locate her.

Both the prime minister and Foreign Secretary William Hague were kept fully informed and British approval was given for a rescue mission to be mounted on Friday night, involving US forces with British officials offering advice.

In a statement, Mr Hague said the aid worker was "killed at the hands of her captors in the course of a rescue attempt".

He said: "Working with our allies we received information about where Linda was being held and we decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said everything was done to rescue Ms Norgrove
"Responsibility for this tragic outcome rests squarely with the hostage takers.

"From the moment they took her, her life was under grave threat. Given who held her, and the danger she was in, we judged that Linda's best chance lay in attempting to rescue her."

International Security Assistance Force Commander General David Petraeus said Afghan and coalition security forces did everything in their power to rescue Ms Norgrove.

He said: "Linda was a courageous person with a passion to improve the lives of Afghan people, and sadly she lost her life in their service. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time."

And Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, expressed his "deepest condolences" following her "extremely sad and upsetting" death.

"Ms Norgrove was a dedicated aid worker who was doing everything she could to help people in Afghanistan - hopefully that legacy of service in a humanitarian cause can be of some comfort to her loved ones in their time of grief," he said.

Ms Norgrove had been based in Jalalabad where she supervised US-funded reconstruction programmes in the eastern region of Afghanistan.

'Wonderful woman'

DAI president James Boomgard said the loss of a "beloved friend and respected colleague" was "devastating news" and sent his condolences to her family.

In a statement, he said: "We are saddened beyond words by the death of a wonderful woman whose sole purpose in Afghanistan was to do good, to help the Afghan people achieve a measure of prosperity and stability in their everyday lives as they set about rebuilding their country.

"Linda loved Afghanistan and cared deeply for its people, and she was deeply committed to her development mission. She was an inspiration to many of us here at DAI and she will be deeply missed."

The area where Ms Norgrove was killed was extremely remote
One her colleagues in Kabul told the BBC the Briton had "sacrificed her life for Afghans".

Ms Norgrove, who had travelled extensively, was an experienced aid worker who had been based in a number of countries.

She worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and Laos and, prior to that, led a conservation and poverty reduction project in Peru.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul said Dewagal valley, in eastern Kunar province, where she was held, is known for its difficult terrain. It is mountainous and densely forested. The valley is extremely remote.

There has never been any government control; it is virtually ruled by militants, tribal elders and powerful clans.

Various armed groups operate in the area, Afghans and foreigners can be targeted by gangs seeking ransom money, but they are sometimes sold on to militant groups.

DAI carries out aid work, often subcontracted by the United States Agency for International Development.

In July, a British private security guard was among four people killed in an attack on DAI offices in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan. Shaun Sexton, 29, from Northumberland, a former member of the Parachute Regiment, was working for the firm's security sub-contractor, Edinburgh International.

A month later, British doctor Karen Woo and nine other aid workers and translators were killed by gunmen, in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan, in what police said was a robbery.

Dr Woo worked for Christian charity the International Assistance Mission, providing eye care in remote villages.

Half dozen more scumbags killed by drone

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Six militants died in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region Friday, intelligence officials said.

The intelligence officials, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said a militant hideout was targeted.

The attack occurred in the Miran Shah area of North Waziristan, one of seven districts in Pakistan's volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been critical of drone strikes, many of which have occurred in North Waziristan, with one Foreign Ministry official saying that such attacks have been counterproductive in the effort to win grass-roots support for the fight against militants.

While suspected militants have been killed, the strikes have also caused civilian casualties, angering citizens.

The United States does not officially comment on suspected drone strikes. But it is the only country operating in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones, which are controlled remotely. September has seen more attacks than any other month since strikes from the unmanned aerial vehicles began.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Taliban being hired /U.S. service members at risk

The lives of U.S. service members are being put at risk - and so is the U.S mission in Afghanistan - by lax oversight of private security contractors, according to a Senate Armed Services Committee report based on a year-long investigation of contracting problems.

Two separate issues are in play, according to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., committee chairman: First, some security contractors and subcontractors are using Afghan warlords and strongmen either as employees or recruiters, despite evidence of ties to the Taliban and terrorist organizations. Investigators found examples of security guards using their access to bases to steal weapons and plan attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, and also found that the contracts were funneling U.S. taxpayer money into the hands of people responsible for murder, kidnappings and unrest.

Second, some security guards were simply unqualified, untrained and unreliable. Investigators found guards with no weapons or weapons training who never made patrols, left guard towers unmanned and failed to show up for work.

"You do not need security that produces insecurity," Levin said. "This situation threatens the security of our troops and puts the success of our mission at risk. We need to shut off the spigot of U.S. dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and powerbrokers who act contrary to our interest and contribute to the corruption that weakens the support of the Afghan people for their government."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, responding to the Senate committee report, said the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command have been working for three years to tighten contracting rules, placing more emphasis on commanders on the ground weighing in on security contracts.

One month ago, Army Gen. David Petraeus announced new procedures to consider whether giving security contracts to local powerbrokers is a good idea, Gates said. "The memorandum encourages commanders to hire Afghans first and help build Afghan capacity but also emphasizes the need for the command to know those with whom they contract," Gates said in the letter to Levin.

In response to that letter, Levin said he still has some immediate concerns because some current contractors, including some applying for renewals, who are part of the problem uncovered by the committee. "The current situation has huge risks which are unacceptable," he said.

About 26,000 private security contractors are now working in Afghanistan, most of them armed and most of them Afghan nationals. This underscores the importantce of ensuring the security guards are properly vetted, trained and equipped, Levin said.

Many of the problems uncovered in the committee investigation involve problems in 2007 and 2008. But there are recent examples as well, like a Feb. 19 incident in Farah province in northeastern Afghanistan when a Marine patrol came under fire by someone who was later discovered to be a contract security guard. One Marine was killed in the incident, and seven Afghan nationals working as security guards were detained, with their weapons and a cache of opium seized as evidence, according to the report.

Marines interviewed by the committee said this "was not the first time they had taken fire from private security personnel," the report sai

Russian Spy-hottie spotted at cosmodrome

Anna Chapman, a Russian spy recently deported from the US, has made an unexpected public appearance at a cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Ms Chapman watched the launch of Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, carrying a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts for the International Space Station, from the Baikonur cosmodrome.

She did not make any public comments.

Ms Chapman was among 10 Russians arrested in the US who admitted to being agents for a foreign country.

More serious money-laundering charges against them were dropped.

Moscow agreed to exchange four US spies for the 10 Russian agents and the swap was carried out in Vienna on 9 July.

'Just arrived'
Ms Chapman watched as Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka and America's Scott Kelly blasted off for the ISS early on Friday.

Ms Chapman refused to answer any questions from the media
It was her first public appearance since she returned to Russia three months ago.

She refused to answer any questions from the media, saying only that she had "just arrived", the Associated Press reports.

She then walked hastily to a guarded guest house near the launch pad accompanied by a burly man who blocked her from reporters, the news agency says.

Reports say she was at the launch as an adviser to a president of one of Russia's banks.

Ms Chapman, who is also known as Anya Kushchenko, has kept a low profile since she was deported from the US.

Her provocative photos from social-networking sites made her a media sensation three months ago.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Breaking: Philly Flight Evacuated

(CNN) -- Authorities evacuated a plane at the airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Thursday after one of three people loading the plane failed to produce identification and then disappeared, police said.

U.S. Airways Flight 1070 was bound for Bermuda with 102 passengers and five crew members, police said. It has been towed to a secure part of the airport.

Federal and local police at the Philadelphia International Airport were searching for a person in uniform who was not wearing identification on the tarmac, a law enforcement official told CNN on Thursday.

"This could be a suspicious person or it could be nothing," the official said.
Authorities evacuated the plane after one of three people dressed in employee uniforms while loading the plane could not produce ID badges, Officer Tanya Little of the Philadelphia police said.
When airport officials sought the individual, the person was gone, Little said.

F-35s back in the sky

Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II test planes are flying again after being grounded late last week due to software glitches involving the jets' fuel pumps, company officials have confirmed.

"Over the weekend, we loaded the software solution onto the flight test aircraft," company spokesman John Kent said late on Oct. 5. "This morning, we received clearance to fly the two aircraft at [Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.] and just a few minutes ago, AF-1 took off."

While the conventional takeoff F-35As are cleared to fly, the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (STOVL) F-35Bs have yet to receive clearance. Additional problems with the B model's auxiliary inlet door are keeping those jets on the ground, according to the company.

"We expect the STOVL test aircraft to receive clearance very soon and to resume [conventional-takeoff-and-landing or CTOL] operations later this week," Kent said. "The F-35B jets are still restricted to CTOL-mode only operations, as we implement the corrective actions that address the auxiliary inlet door issue."

Lockheed has acknowledged in recent months that flight testing had been delayed on the F-35B after a series of problems were discovered involving things like inlet door hinges, as the plane shifted from forward to vertical flight.


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