Thursday, June 30, 2011

What you need to know about the NextGen bomber

Unclassified Facts on the Air Force Penetrating Bomber
Amy Butler - AVWEEK

Provide industry executives the unclassified facts on the new penetrating bomber program.

- Based on Secretary of Defense direction, the Air Force (AF) is developing a new penetrating bomber.
- The new penetrating bomber will be a component of the joint portfolio of conventional deep-strike capabilities.
- The new penetrating bomber will be highly survivable, nuclear capable, and designed to accommodate manned or unmanned operations
- The new penetrating bomber will be able to employ a broad mix of stand-off and direct-attack munitions.
- The total annual budget by appropriation (i.e., RDT&E, Production) is unclassified.
- The Air Force plans to deliver the initial capability in the mid-2020s.
- The new program will leverage mature technologies and constrain requirements based on affordability
- The new program will focus on affordability: unit cost target set to inform design/requirement trades and ensure sufficient inventory.
- The Air Force is projecting to build a fleet of 80-100 aircraft.
- The new program will employ enhanced security measures and be protected by a Special Access Program.
- All other details are classified to protect operational advantages and the nation's investment in critical technologies and capabilities.
- For further information, contact the Procuring Contracting Officer (PCO) or the Program Security Officer (PSO)

Last shuttle mission set for July 8

Launch Preparations Move Forward
Thu, 30 Jun 2011 07:57:48 AM CDT

Preparations at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are moving forward as space shuttle Atlantis' liftoff on July 8 nears. Today, technicians at Launch Pad 39A will pressurize Atlantis' main propulsion system following the closure yesterday of the spacecraft's payload bay doors.

The STS-135 crew will participate in preflight interviews from NASA's Johnson Space Center today. Briefings about this final mission of the Space Shuttle Program will air live on NASA TV throughout the day and also can be seen online at

Air sampled over Los Alamos for radiation

The U.S. government sent a plane equipped with radiation monitors over the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory Wednesday as a 110-square-mile wildfire burned at its doorstep, putting thousands of scientific experiments on hold for days.

Lab authorities described the monitoring as a precaution, and they, along with outside experts on nuclear engineering, expressed confidence that the blaze would not scatter radioactive material, as some in surrounding communities feared.

Lab authorities described the monitoring as a precaution, and they, along with outside experts on nuclear engineering, expressed confidence that the blaze would not scatter radioactive material, as some residents feared.

"Our facilities, our nuclear materials are all safe, they're accounted for and they're protected," said lab director Charles McMillan.

The twin-engine plane, which can take digital photographs and video as well as thermal and night images, was sent to New York City to take air samples after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It has flown over wildfires and areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It monitored the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It also helped locate debris from the disintegrated space shuttle Columbia shuttle.

"It can look for a wide variety of chemical constituents in a plume and the plumes can originate from fires, from explosions, from a wide variety of sources," said lab spokesman Kevin Roark.

And in a testament to the sophisticated research done at Los Alamos, the plane was developed with technology from the lab, the desert installation that built the atomic bomb during World War II.
The pillars of smoke that can be seen as far as Albuquerque, 60 miles away, have people on edge.

The fire has also cast a haze as far away as Kansas. But officials said they analyzed samples taken Tuesday night from some of the lab's monitors and the results showed nothing abnormal in the smoke.

Anti-nuclear groups have sounded the alarm about thousands of 55-gallon drums containing low-grade nuclear waste - gloves, tools and other contaminated items - about two miles from the fire. Lab officials said it was highly unlikely the blaze would reach the drums, and that the steel containers can in any case withstand flames and will be sprayed with fire-resistant foam if necessary.

Kevin Smith, site manager for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the lab's precautions have been scrutinized by dozens of experts. The lab has been shut down since Monday, when all of the city of Los Alamos and some of its surrounding areas - 12,000 people in all - was evacuated. The fire has held up research on such topics as renewable energy, AIDS and particle physics.

"We have 10,000 experiments running at the same time," said Terry Wallace, science chief at the lab. "We'll have to do an analysis to see what's been affected and how it's been affected."

The plane is just one part of an elaborate air monitoring network surrounding the lab. The lab and the New Mexico Environment Department have dozens of monitors on the ground throughout the region. McMillan said four high-volume air samplers were deployed Tuesday and more were on their way Wednesday.

Some experts familiar with the Los Alamos lab said there is no reason to fear that flames will scatter radiation.

"The nuclear materials are secure," said Penn State University nuclear engineering professor Barry Scheetz, who has served on National Academy of Sciences nuclear review boards and has been to Los Alamos several times. "There's multiple redundancy in the protection of this material. It's not just laying out. It's not there so that a fire is going to disrupt it there and disperse it. The procedures that are in place to protect this material are tremendous."

He added: "The U.S. government, the Department of Energy, has spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars for scenarios that are so unlikely to occur that it is even ridiculous to think about."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

F-16 crashes in Nellis Range Complex


The pilot of a downed F-16C Fighting Falcon remained missing late Tuesday several hours after his jet crashed in a remote area near Caliente during an air-to-air combat exercise, a Nellis Air Force Base official said.

"At this time we are focusing our efforts on the ongoing search-and-rescue mission for the missing pilot," Brig. Gen. T.J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, said at a news conference shortly before 11 p.m. "What we are looking for now is the parachute and the pilot."

The jet, which went down about 5:30 p.m., did not have live weaponry and was not equipped with an active locating device, O'Shaughnessy said. He described the exercise that preceded the crash as a "dogfight" between two aircraft.

Search-and-rescue teams identified the crash site, which was about 20 miles west of the Lincoln County community on relatively flat land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Caliente is about 155 miles north of Las Vegas.

O'Shaughnessy did not identify the pilot, who was the only person in the aircraft.

The Nevada Test and Training Range, where the exercise was being conducted, has 12,000 square miles of military operating airspace, but jets such as the F-22 Raptor can cross it in seven minutes, flying at roughly 17 miles per minute.

A trained safety investigation board will collect evidence and try to determine the cause of the crash during the next several weeks, O'Shaughnessy said.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon flies at a maximum speed of about 1,500 mph. It is a fighter jet used by multiple Air Force squadrons, including the Thunderbirds air demonstration team, which is based at Nellis.

More than 4,400 F-16s have been manufactured since 1976. The F-16C and F-16D models cost about $19 million each. The C and D models were built in the 1980s, and there are now about 1,280 in the U.S. inventory, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

The last fatal crash during a combat exercise over the Nellis range complex occurred July 30, 2008, when Lt. Col. Thomas A. Bouley, who commanded the 65th Aggressor Squadron, was killed when his F-15D Eagle fighter jet went down with a Royal Air Force exchange pilot observing from the back seat.

The United Kingdom observer pilot managed to escape the crash by ejecting 740 feet above the high desert terrain of the sprawling training range, 50 miles east of Goldfield.

Air Force investigators determined that pilot error coupled with "aircraft anomalies" sent the two-seat F-15D into a violent spin.

They found that a yaw-roll phenomenon created a spark of uncontrolled flight that resulted in the jet spinning about 20 times in less than 90 seconds. This caused Bouley to become disoriented and misjudge how close the plane was to the ground.

Contact Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.

Stephenville UFO - re-post by special request.

UFO Myths: A Special Investigation into Stephenville and Other Major Sightings
By Phil Patton
Popular Mechanics

"It was the most beautiful sunset I'd ever seen," says Steve Allen, who has seen 50 years of sunsets in central Texas. "That's what I first thought."

It was Jan. 8, 2008, and the trucking entrepreneur was sitting around a fire outside the Selden, Texas, home of Mike Odom, his friend since first grade. Then he saw the lights — orbs that glowed at first, then began to flash. "There was no regular pattern to the flashing," he says. "They lined up horizontally, seven of them, then changed into an arch. They lined up vertically, and I saw two rectangles of bright flame. That's when I knew it was a life-changing experience." He watched the lights drift north toward Stephenville, the seat of Erath County. "They came back a few minutes later," Allen says, "this time followed by two jets — F-16s, I think." Allen, who owns and flies a Cessna, has seen plenty of military planes over the years. "The jets looked like they were chasing the lights, and the lights seemed to be toying with them. It was like a 100-hp car trying to keep up with a 1000-hp one."

Odom also saw the lights and called to his wife, Claudette, who came outside in time to see the second display. When Allen returned home, he phoned friends at the local airport who checked with the Fort Worth airport tower. "Both said nothing was flying," Allen says.

That night, James Huse, a former Air Force navigation specialist, was in downtown Stephenville saying good-night to a couple of friends. "Out of the corner of my eye I saw two red orbs moving overhead," he says, "the reddest things I'd ever seen in the sky. They came right in front of me at 2000 ft about half a mile away. They weren't going that fast, maybe 60 mph. They didn't make any noise."

Outside Dublin, about 15 miles southwest of Stephenville, Constable Lee Roy Gaitan finished eating a slice of his wife's birthday cake, then headed out to his patrol car to get his wallet so his family could watch Mr. Bean on pay per view. That's when he saw the lights. "First, I saw a yellow-red orb the color of lava in a volcano," he says. "Then, instead of the red orbs, there were nine or 10 flashing lights maybe 3000 ft in the air, bouncing and very bright. They hovered there, strobing for 2 or 3 minutes, bright like German auto headlights. Then they shot off at blazing speed like a school of fish, you know, when it's frightened." Later, Gaitan says, two jets flew over.

The next day Allen called Angelia Joiner, a reporter at the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, and told his story. The paper published Joiner's piece — "Possible UFO Sighting" — on Jan. 10. It was the first of her numerous articles about the lights. On Jan. 11, Joiner called Maj. Karl Lewis, public affairs officer of the 301st Fighter Wing at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth (formerly Carswell Air Force Base and now used by all the services). Lewis said the base had nothing flying the night of the sightings. Other nearby bases issued similar denials.

It all added up to the most dramatic UFO incident in more than a decade. "Texas Town Abuzz Over Dozens of UFO Sightings," wrote "Are UFOs Invading Texas?" asked Texas Monthly. "UFOs Put Stephenville in World Spotlight," said the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. CNN showed up, along with ABC, the BBC, and other TV crews from as far away as Japan. So did Bill O'Reilly and Larry King. A longtime UFO fan, King devoted a segment to Stephenville and interviewed Gaitan and Joiner. Jake and Dorothy's Café, near the courthouse square, became a favored journalist hangout. "One day I went into Jake and Dorothy's for coffee, the way I always do," Huse says, "and there was a TV crew on one side of me and reporters on the other."

The Stephenville sightings had all the elements of a classic UFO incident — first reports, official denials, independent witnesses stepping forward. The Texas dairy town of 17,000 with the statue of a cow in the main square had joined Roswell, Area 51, and other small places as an iconic name in the annals of UFOs.

On the December night I drive from Dallas to Stephenville, the moon is in congruence with Venus and Jupiter: The two planets and crescent suggest a flag's heraldic pattern. By the end of the evening, the sinking moon is huge and orange, like a Ferris-wheel-size slice of cantaloupe hung in the trees.

The illusion that the moon is bigger near the horizon is just one of the tricks our eyes play on us when we observe objects in the heavens. Humanity has long infused these mysterious shapes and lights with portents and meanings interpreted according to the cultural notions of the day. The star-related deities of the Egyptians, the godlike comets of the Greeks, the mysterious shapes in the skies of Renaissance frescoes — all were forerunners of flying saucers. "The tendency to believe in the paranormal appears to be there from the beginning," Christopher Bader, a Baylor University sociologist, told LiveScience. "What changes is the content. Few people believe in fairies and elves these days. But as belief in fairies faded, other beliefs, such as belief in UFOs, emerged to take its place."

There is no dispute that UFOs exist — that is, objects flying through the sky that are unidentified. (In fact, one in seven Americans say they have seen UFOs.) But that, of course, does not mean they are ships from a distant galaxy. We humans tend to leap to conclusions, imagining alien spacecraft while discounting more likely explanations.

Over the centuries, the technology to record UFOs has evolved from marks on clay to video clips, and the causes of sightings may have changed from comets to secret aircraft, but the psychological pattern endures: It is the story of people projecting hopes and fears onto objects in the sky.

The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which is probably the most influential organization within the highly combative and suspicious UFO community, received so many reports about the Stephenville lights that the Colorado-based group set up an open hearing in nearby Dublin, Texas, birthplace of Dr Pepper and golfer Ben Hogan. On Sat., Jan. 19, some 500 people streamed into the 1909 brick building that is home to the local Rotary Club. "Everywhere I turned there were TV tripods," says Steve Hudgeons, a Fort Worth construction project manager and chief of MUFON's investigations in Texas.

Many people in attendance were simply curious. A few wore tinfoil caps. But more than 200 people came forward to tell their stories, with some sightings going back 30 years. Hutcheons and other MUFON investigators considered about 20 reports to be substantive and relevant to the Jan. 8 incident and promised to publish a report.

On Jan. 23, 12 days after denying it had planes in the air, the military reversed itself. According to a carefully worded press release issued by Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs, "Ten F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron were performing training operations from 6 to 8 pm on Jan. 8 in the Brownwood Military Operations Area [MOA], which includes the airspace above Erath County."

Why the flip-flop? "It was an internal communications problem that has now been fixed," says 301st Fighter Wing spokesman Lewis. Inconsistent disclosures by the military have often fueled UFO speculation. The military changed its story about Roswell numerous times after 1947, when Air Force officials first claimed to have "captured" a flying saucer, then denied it.

Adding to the atmosphere of mistrust is the military's refusal to release details of operations, including training flights. Lewis declines to give specifics on hardware or tactics used over Erath County. During training, he says, "we fly like we fight."

By mid-February the Empire-Tribune had lost interest in the Stephenville lights; their reporter Joiner had not. She left the paper to run a Website about the sightings, funded by Allen. The Dublin Citizen, however, continued to pursue the story. Publisher and editor Mac McKinnon, a former Air Force historian whose office is hung with model warplanes from his days in the service, saw some curious lights in January. "I believe the military has all sorts of exotic propulsion systems and other technologies we don't even know about," he says. He assigned the story to reporter Jon Awbrey, who also saw lights — "a triangle with squares at the corners."

Awbrey put me in touch with Dublin police chief Lannie Lee. In January two of his men had taped one of the lights using the dashboard video in their patrol car. He had not made the tape public. "I didn't want any notoriety to be attached to the department," the mild-mannered chief says. He pulls out a VHS tape and leads me to the back of the station and puts it in the machine. On the screen, a dot appears against a black sky and begins to dance. The camera zooms in on a shimmering, bouncing but otherwise featureless circle of light. "It goes on like that for about an hour," Lee says.

The reports from January reminded another Dublin resident, machinist Ricky Sorrells, of a huge object he says he saw in December when he was deer hunting. "I looked at it through the scope on my deer rifle," Sorrells tells me over burgers at the Dublin Dairy Queen. He is a big man who has just come in from hunting, dressed in full camouflage. He describes what he saw as a "huge gray object," the color of galvanized metal, with no rivets, bolts, or seams. "It was about 100 ft tall and about 300 ft up in the air," he says, comparing the height of the object to the grain elevator where he once worked.

It was the first of several sightings for Sorrells. He captured one of them on video. In the Dairy Queen, he unfolded his cellphone and handed it to me. I saw a tiny video of a barely discernable white shape moving through the sky.

After its Dublin open hearing, MUFON filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the military branches and other governmental agencies. Only the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Weather Service acknowledged they had relevant information and forwarded radar data.

In July, the group released its report, which suggests that several fighters as well as an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane were in the area. But so, they claim, was a mysterious large object, without the required transponder that identifies and locates aircraft. The report concludes that a very large unidentified craft or object "was tracked on radar for over an hour. Most of the time, the object was either stationary or moving at speeds of less than 60 mph. At 7:32 pm, the object was tracked accelerating to 532 mph in 30 seconds and then slowing to 49 mph only 10 seconds later."

Radar blips would seem to present a positive, nonsubjective way to observe UFOs. Studies from the Condon Report, published in 1968 by the University of Colorado, to the Air Force's Blue Book project to a 1997 evaluation by the Society for Scientific Exploration, however, have found that radar can be "fooled" in simple ways. Anomalous propagation, or false echoes, is most often caused by ground clutter, often a result of low-level temperature inversions that muffle ground radar's electronic pulse and lead to a circular scatter of returns based on hits from buildings and trees.

In extreme examples, called ducting, the temperature inversion can bend the beam all the way back to the Earth's surface, so a surprising radar blip turns out to be a hill or a building. With the introduction of more advanced filtering software over the past decade, the number of UFOs attributed to false returns has decreased significantly.

Former Air Force pilot, astronomer, and longtime UFO skeptic James McGaha believes that some such form of radar scatter was responsible for the returns that MUFON interpreted as a solid object. The FAA did not describe any such object, nor was it clear whether it was in the Brownwood MOA. "They had a huge amount of data," McGaha says, "and they just pulled a few bits of information out of it and drew a line."

In the fall, just when it seemed as though Stephenville might be forgotten, the sightings began again. People were no longer hesitant to come forward. Their descriptions often compared the lights to arc welding or burning magnesium — lights bright enough to interrupt a little league football game in Stephenville. The descriptions followed a pattern similar to the one experienced by Peggy Delavergne. On the night of Nov. 18 she saw lights while driving her children home to Stephenville after a basketball game in Dublin. "At first there were two very bright gold lights," she says. "Then there were more lights, like a string of pearls — not quite a circle and not quite egg-shaped. My husband was in another vehicle, and he saw them too. He called me on his cellphone and asked me, 'Do you see that?' I don't know whether it was from somewhere else or from the military, but something is going on out there."

A high school student named Carli Crutcher shot a photo of the lights that Mac McKinnon ran in the Dublin Citizen. It shows streaky, stringy forms.

What's in the sky? Some skeptics, like McGaha, believe that the Stephenville, Phoenix, and many other sightings can be attributed to military aircraft and evasion or illumination flares.

Flares have a long association with UFO sightings. One night in late February 1942, the sky over Southern California lit up with strange blinking lights near various defense plants. In what has become known as the Battle of Los Angeles, the Navy unloaded four batteries of antiaircraft artillery at what turned out to be a balloon carrying a red flare. A decade ago, mysterious lights seen by thousands of Phoenix residents were actually leftover flares dumped by A-10 pilots with the Maryland Air National Guard.

Some Erath County residents dismiss the flare theory. "I've seen military flares," Allen says. "They are not even the same color as the ones I saw." But evasion-flare technology evolves rapidly, as the military tries to keep one step ahead of the increasingly sophisticated tracking capabilities of antiaircraft missiles. At one time evasive maneuvers consisted of sharp turns against the sun. When missiles got smarter, pilots began dropping bright flares; infrared seekers homed in on the decoys while warplanes fled from the field of view.

But today's missiles can track far more than the heat signatures of engines. They can pick out targets among decoys by discerning a warplane's movement and shape. Spectral sensors on missiles can even detect the color differences between a jet engine and a flare. In response, the military has deployed a variety of flares that can move under their own power and change color.

People in Erath County are certainly familiar with warplanes. During my visit, I get a taste of the 3200-square-mile Brownwood MOA in action. Helicopters and jets fly day and night. One afternoon, while I'm driving to Dublin on Highway 377, a T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer rips past only a few thousand feet above the road.

The MOA is well-known to the leading civilian authority on Texas airspace, Steve Douglass. The author of Military Monitoring and an expert consulted by Aviation Week, Douglass has been tracking operations from his base in Amarillo for a quarter century. He is part of the so-called interceptors network, the plane spotters caricatured in the film Broken Arrow as "those guys in lawn chairs" staking out runways and bases. "Brownwood is used by Navy, Air Force and Army units," Douglass says, "including Apache helicopters, B-1s, C-130s, and F-16s. There are AWACS from Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City and KR-135 tankers from Altus in southwest Oklahoma. The airspace is especially active these days, with the new F-35 tactical fighter being assembled at a factory in Fort Worth and tested in the MOA." Lockheed Martin spokesman John Kent confirms that on Jan. 8, 2008, the first — and until June 2008, the only — F-35 test plane, the AA-1, was in Fort Worth, but it was not in the air that night. "It's restricted to daytime flight," Kent says, so that chase planes can monitor it.

Stephenville is only the latest in a long list of UFO incidents that are likely based on military operations, starting with the Battle of Los Angeles. Whether the recent Texas sightings were flight exercises involving evasion flares or tests of an existing plane, a new plane or a UAV, any military activity in the area is likely to remain unexplained for awhile. We now know about the secret programs behind the UFO sightings of decades ago. But what of programs that are still secret?

In the past, many projects sponsored by DARPA, which was behind the original Stealth and UAV research, have begun as secret black programs before showing up as public white ones. One example: stratospheric sensors developed for high-altitude airships under the ISIS program, which may have existed for years before it was made public in 2004. (Its funding for 2007 was $24.7 million.) These sensors could be used on huge wing- or boomerang-shaped blimps that can fly at altitudes of more than 60,000 ft and hover unmanned for months. "There have been many sightings of large, slow-moving triangle-shaped airships," says Steve Douglass, "starting with a sighting near Antelope Valley, Calif., in 1990." For many years airliners and ground observers have reported boomerang-shaped craft near Groom Lake.

The tethered "aerostat" lighter-than-air craft, which appeals to many agencies as a so-called poor man's satellite, also may trigger sightings. The Air Force uses these surveillance systems along the U.S.-Mexico border to support antidrug operations. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security are evaluating unmanned inflatables 500 ft long.

The military's secrecy exasperates some Stephenville locals, even veterans. "It's been 30 years since I was in the Air Force," James Huse says, "but I don't understand why they wouldn't come out and tell the truth. If they have the capability of putting on a show like that all they have to do is tell us. We'd get out our lawn chairs and watch."

But the Air Force's legitimate need for secrecy extends beyond its black programs. It releases information about all domestic flights on a case-by-case basis, says Capt. Rose Richeson, of the USAF Air Education and Training Command. "Usually we don't mind talking about training," she says. "But we would not talk about specifics if it were a matter of national security, or give details about training methods or mission scenarios that could be used by enemies of the United States."

Meantime, Stephenville has settled uneasily into its newfound notoriety as a UFO site. Some locals have become skeptical about the motives of MUFON. "Who funds it?" asks Steve Allen. And a certain amount of backbiting has set in among some of the eyewitnesses. Lee Roy Gaitan worries that some locals who have reported sightings are "just not credible" and cast doubt on his genuine account. "Some people stretch a story," Huse says. Others resent the way they have been depicted. "I made the mistake of saying it was as big as a Wal-Mart," Allen says. "People have been teasing me about it ever since."

"I didn't call them flying saucers or extraterrestrials," Huse says. "All I said was that it was unidentified flying objects, and I'm sticking to that. I couldn't identify them." People in Erath County, Huse says, aren't nuts or hicks. "We are just ordinary people who happened to look up."


Monday, June 27, 2011

Russian double agent fled Russia just before squealing ...

MOSCOW — A senior Russian intelligence officer convicted of working for the United States fled Russia on a train just before the Americans busted his ring of 10 Russian sleeper agents.

Details of Col. Alexander Poteyev's quick escape and farewell text message to his wife — asking her to "try to take it calmly" — were among evidence produced by the court Monday as it found him guilty in absentia of high treason and desertion.

Pinup spy Anna Chapman, one of the 10 agents deported from the U.S. in July, testified during the closed trial that only Poteyev could have provided the information that led to their arrest last summer, Russian news agencies reported, citing a summary of the evidence read by the judge as he issued his ruling.

Chapman testified that she was caught after an undercover U.S. agent contacted her using a code that only Poteyev and her personal handler knew, the reports said. She said she immediately felt during the meeting that something was wrong and called her handler in Moscow, who confirmed her suspicions. Chapman and others were arrested shortly after.

Read more: HERE

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Today's excerpt from The Interceptors Club & The Secret Of The Black Manta


Except for the lush green, park-like campus of the Three Rivers School, the landscape on the northeast side of the White Sands Missile Range (containing the remote Stallion Base) was barren and foreboding.

There wasn’t any fence keeping people out of this part of the White Sands Missile Range, because the terrain looked so unforgiving that it was a given that the only ones who’d consider entering the range were either stupid or plain crazy.

Since they rarely encountered either type, going to the expense of putting up a fence to encircle a chunk or real estate the Devil himself would think twice about traversing seemed like a big waste of time and taxpayer’s money.

Because the land was considered so isolated and worthless, the military thought it be a great place to test the first nuclear bombs rightly thinking that no one would mind.

At the time (in 1944) The Tularosa Basin was deemed far enough from any major cities that the risk of nuclear fallout settling over a populated area was minimal, plus the fact the desert land was considered so absolutely worthless no one would care if it were blown up, scarred or contaminated. Any chance of anyone wanting to settle there was remote at best.

Therefore the White Sands Missile Range (previously known as the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range) became a testing ground for almost everything that went boom.

Taking up a huge chunk of New Mexico, bigger then some European countries, the 3,200 square miles of test ranges located inside WSMR (pronounced WHIZ-MER) has suffered the onslaught of constant daily bombardment from nuclear to conventional bombs and warheads.

An unbroken lineage starting with the firing of the first nuke, to the testing of captured World War II German V-2 rockets (leading directly to the formation of NASA and the manned space-flight program) also lead to space shuttles, satellites in orbit and landing men on the moon) all of which roots can be traced to this chunk of “worthless” real estate.

Although managed by the Army, every branch of the armed forces from the Navy to the Air Force has used WSMR for weapons development, weapons test and evaluation, experimentation and training.

Air Force and Navy pilots use the ranges at Red Rio to hone their targeting skills. The Navy has installed huge guns, like those on battleships, on mountaintops and lob explosive shells into the long-dried up ancient seabed at plywood ships.

On other mountaintops, futuristic metallic domes house laser and microwave turrets, part of ongoing experiments to perfect portable ray guns just like those portrayed in sci-fi movies like Star Wars.

A thirty-mile long cable stretches across the valley, strung between two mountaintops like a gigantic clothesline. On this cable hollowed-out hulks of antiquated fighter-jets hang like piñatas for use as gunnery targets for air-to-air combat practice.
To the south, just north of Holloman Air Force base are located the two Hypersonic Test Tracks, otherwise known as the world’s fastest rail system, spanning 50,000 feet of flat desert lake bed.

But no charming choo-choos chug along these tracks. Instead rocket driven sleds propel aerodynamic shapes at up to and beyond 6,000 miles per hour, proving future space systems and other aerospace hardware (including humans) to see if they can withstand the horrendous pressures that occur at when traveling many times the speed of sound.

To the east of Holloman is the White Sands Space Harbor, officially built as a secondary landing site for the Space Shuttle, but only used once in 1982.
The strip, located in Alkali Flats is perfectly maintained, one of the longest in the world (35,000 feet) and boasts a landing lights system so bright it can easily be seen from orbit.

Some Interceptors can’t help but wonder why the Space Harbor facility is being continuously maintained and upgraded to the tune of millions of dollars annually when it was used only officially used once over thirty years ago) as a auxiliary strip for Space Shuttle.

Some speculate it has some darker military purpose, possibly being the recovery base for a secret military mini-space shuttle known as the “XOV” or as pilots who have seen the craft call it “Speedy.”

On the far western side of WSMR, nestled against the mountains is RATSCAT, otherwise known as the Radar Target Scatter facility. It is here where some of the most secret work in the range is conducted.

Although from the air it looks like a landing strip, military and civilian pilots are told if they even attempt to land, their aircraft will be confiscated, they will be detained and interrogated and if they don’t have a great reason for landing there (unless they were piloting Air Force One, with the President and the Pope onboard, with all engines on fire) chances are they will lose their wings and be jailed.

As the Interceptors knew well, the radar signatures of present and future stealth aircraft are tested at RATSCAT, but it is so remote and located in an area so far from water, any attempt to hike to the facility would be to take one’s life into one’s hands.

Instead, Static, Freaks and the other Interceptors could only longingly gaze at RATSCAT through a high-powered telescope, its white parabolic dishes shimmering in low definition like a mirage, its secrets hidden from sight by a layer of hot atmospheric distortion making direct observation next to impossible.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Burn before watching ...

The Interceptors Club - for free!

For those of you who missed the last give-away of my e-book "The Interceptors Club & The Secret of the Black Manta" here's another chance to download it for free.

My reason? I need some more reviews! My intent is to write two sequels that climax at Area 51.

I can't do that unless I get this one published in hard back form.

Last freebie day - over 80 downloaded the book but only a half a dozen left reviews.

I have a publisher on the hook - but he requires more proof that this subject has mass appeal.

I pointed out that the Annie Jacobsen book has (despite the massive flaws) has become a best seller and (although classified as fiction) mine contains more truth than her book.

So - for a limited time (until June 25th) you can download the book for free (in many formats) at Smashwords. You don't have to an e-reader to read it.

If you decide to read and review - keep in mind - this IS an early draft and is being edited as I type this. I need reviews about the story line and characters - not comments on typos, errors or formatting problems.

Those are being fixed.

Important: When checking out at SMASHWORDS use the coupon code:
HS59T and there will be no charge.

So what's it about? Follow this LINK.

If you have seen Super Eight - it is similar - but mine doesn't end up being a monster movie or have anything to do with aliens (and INMHO) would make a much better movie.

I hope you enjoy it and will leave me a review. Once the edited version is published (soon) you'll be able to download that version for free as well.

Please feel free to pass the coupon on to ANYONE you think might be interested in a good read and don't forget to like on twitter or facebook!

Smashwords link to the book: LINK

- Steve Douglass

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lulzsec outs snitches ...

Editors's note: It will be intersting to see how this all plays out:

SNIP> FBI & other law enforcement clowns,

LulzSec here with some juicy gossip.

This is Marshal Webb, also known as "[redacted]" in the "#pure-elite" IRC logs you no doubt have enjoyed. He was involved in the hacking of the game "Dues Ex" and was/is involved in countless other cybercrimes.

Also, he tried to snitch on us. Therefore we just did your job for you with great ease.

This moron is trying to flee the country in order to avoid serious punishment. Hunt him down:

SNITCH: m_nerva aka cimx aka rq42
AIM: mudkipznlulz / minervasx
Last known IP: (
Location: MARSH #336
1204 W Main St
Hamilton, Ohio 45013
Name: Marshal Webb

This is also the name of one of his associates, Michael, or "Hann". He's also wanted for some pretty heavy stuff:

Name: michael dean major
DOB: 06/17/1989
Aliases: hann
Address: 4520 spring ave, halethorpe, md
Phone: (443) 304-7052
Google Voice Number: 443-304-7052
AIM: ia2erkn
IRC: fred_da_godson

These goons begged us for mercy after they apologized to us all night for leaking some of our affiliates' logs. There is no mercy on The Lulz Boat.

Snitches get stitches,

Lulz Security

Monday, June 20, 2011

Russian jet crashes on highway - 44 dead.

Moscow (CNN) -- At least 44 people died when a Russian jetliner crashed onto a highway outside the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk late Monday, emergency management officials said.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said the jet had 43 passengers and a crew of nine aboard when it took off Monday night from Moscow for Petrozavodsk, about 950 kilometers (600 miles) to the north. Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said the survivors, including one child, were taken to hospitals.

Controllers lost contact with the twin-engine Tupolev-134 at about 11:40 p.m. (3:40 p.m. ET), and it crashed onto a highway outside Besovets, near the Petrozavodsk airport, the ministry reported.
Andrianova said the jet broke into several pieces and caught fire after the crash. Nearly 140 rescue workers, doctors and police officers were on the scene before dawn Tuesday, and the ministry was sending an aircraft with more rescuers and medical teams from Moscow, she said.

Lulz takes it up a notch - calling for theft of classified information:

Editors note: This is either a call to arms - or a government sting to net Lulzsec sympathizers and hackers.

Salutations Lulz Lizards,

As we're aware, the government and whitehat security terrorists across the world continue to dominate and control our Internet ocean. Sitting pretty on cargo bays full of corrupt booty, they think it's acceptable to condition and enslave all vessels in sight. Our Lulz Lizard battle fleet is now declaring immediate and unremitting war on the freedom-snatching moderators of 2011.

Welcome to Operation Anti-Security (#AntiSec) - we encourage any vessel, large or small, to open fire on any government or agency that crosses their path. We fully endorse the flaunting of the word "AntiSec" on any government website defacement or physical graffiti art. We encourage you to spread the word of AntiSec far and wide, for it will be remembered. To increase efforts, we are now teaming up with the Anonymous collective and all affiliated battleships.

Whether you're sailing with us or against us, whether you hold past grudges or a burning desire to sink our lone ship, we invite you to join the rebellion. Together we can defend ourselves so that our privacy is not overrun by profiteering gluttons. Your hat can be white, gray or black, your skin and race are not important. If you're aware of the corruption, expose it now, in the name of Anti-Security.

Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation. Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments. If they try to censor our progress, we will obliterate the censor with cannonfire anointed with lizard blood.

It's now or never. Come aboard, we're expecting you...

History begins today.

Lulz Security,


Friday, June 17, 2011

Jihadist "Hit List" published ...


The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have alerted law enforcement about a terrorist "hit list" that was posted on a jihadi web site and names 40 prominent figures from government, the U.S. military and the media who should be attacked.

Among the names on the hit list, which includes photographs of the targets and biographical information, are a member of Congress, Pentagon officials, a conservative pundit, executives of an American company involved in the production of drone aircraft, and two prominent French executives.

According to a bulletin circulated by the FBI, the hit list appeared on the website Ansar al-Mujahideen after one poster highlighted Al Qaeda leader Adam Gadahn's call in a June 3 message for lone wolf attacks on American public figures and corporate institutions. "In response to the original posting," says the U.S. government's intelligence bulletin, "other forum members posted the names of over 40 heads of government, industry and media as potential targets." One forum member suggested that booby-trapped parcels be sent to the home addresses of those on the list.

"Though there has been an increase in postings on extremist web forums since [Osama bin Laden's] death on 2 May 2011, these examples are the most target specific threat postings in the forum since that date," says the bulletin. The depth and breadth of the list provided . . . represent a familiarity with defense and intelligence contractors and private sector support."

An FBI official who reviewed the notice said the threats were mostly aspirational and described the item as a "wish list" of targets. DHS and the FBI circulated the notice to law enforcement out of an abundance of caution because posters on the website were making threats on a publicly available forum.

In a statement DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said, "A DHS Open Source Information Report about an online posting by a user of an Arabic-language violent jihadist forum, which listed specific individuals and businesses that the user believed were legitimate targets, was disseminated by the Office of Intelligence & Analysis."

"While we have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the United States or any U.S. persons, as always, we urge federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as the general public, to maintain increased vigilance for indications of preoperational or suspicious activity," said Ortman.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

CIA website hacked by LulzSec

The hacker group LulzSec claimed credit Wednesday for taking down the CIA’s Web site for a couple of hours, the latest in a string of embarrassing Web site disruptions the group has pulled off — apparently more to poke fun and highlight vulnerabilities than to cause real damage.

At 5:48 p.m., LulzSec, which dubs itself “the world’s leaders in high-quality entertainment at your expense,” posted an alert on Twitter: “Tango down — — for the lulz.”

The site was back up by 8 p.m.

But the fact that the group could penetrate Web sites and harvest system administrators’ credentials underscores the risks of failing to secure sites, experts said.

“Web sites are the low-hanging fruit,” said Richard Stiennon, a cyber expert and author of “Surviving Cyberwar.” “But the Web sites are running on a server. Once you completely own the server that the Web site is on, you can watch the insiders log in and record their activity, and that can be a front door into the organization.”


Number two al Qaeda -Zawahri now public enemy Number One

Reuters) - Egyptian-born doctor and surgeon Ayman al-Zawahri is al Qaeda's second-in-command expected to succeed Osama bin Laden following his killing in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan.

Zawahri has been the brains behind bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, and at times its most public face, repeatedly denouncing the United States and its allies in video messages.

In the latest monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group last month, he urged Muslims to fight NATO and American forces in Libya.

"I want to direct the attention of our Muslim brothers in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and the rest of the Muslim countries, that if the Americans and the NATO forces enter Libya then their neighbors in Egypt and Tunisia and Algeria and the rest of the Muslim countries should rise up and fight both the mercenaries of Gaddafi and the rest of NATO," Zawahri said.

Born into an upper-class family of scholars and doctors in an upscale Cairo neighborhood, the cerebral Egyptian in his late-50s is second after bin Laden on the FBI "most wanted terrorists" list.

Both bin laden and Zawahiri eluded capture when U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan's Taliban government in late 2001 after al Qaeda's September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.

But on Sunday bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces and his body was recovered, U.S. President Barack Obama said. There was no word on Zawahri.

Bespectacled, with grey hair and a grey beard, Zawahri won prominence in November 2008, when he attacked then U.S. President-elect Obama as a "house Negro," a racially-charged term used by 1960s black American Muslim leader Malcolm X to describe black slaves loyal to white masters.

In a subsequent video, in September 2009, Zawahri returned to the attack on Obama, saying he was no different from his predecessor George W. Bush.

"America has come with a new deceptive face ... It plants the same dagger as Bush and his predecessors did. Obama has resorted to the policies of his predecessors in lying and selling illusions," said Zawahri, clad in white robe and turban.

Like bin Laden, Zawahri has long been thought to be hiding along the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border. The last video of Zawahri and bin Laden together was broadcast by al Jazeera on September 10, 2003. It showed them walking in mountains, calling for jihad and praising the September 11 hijackers.


Analysts have described Zawahri as al Qaeda's chief organizer and bin Laden's closest mentor. "Ayman is for bin Laden like the brain to the body," said Montasser al-Zayat, a lawyer in Cairo who once represented Zawahri.

In a video after the September 11 attacks, Zawahri called them a "great victory" achieved "thanks to God".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pakistan arrests bin Laden informants ...

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's intelligence agency arrested "a few" informants who gave information to the CIA before the raid that left Osama bin Laden dead, Pakistani intelligence officials said Wednesday.

The arrests were addressed during the Friday meeting between CIA Director Leon Panetta, Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Pakistan's head of military intelligence.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said he did not know the exact number of informants arrested or what date it happened.
The intelligence that led to bin Laden's death.

The five CIA informants were reported to have copied license plates of cars visiting bin Laden's compound before the May raid.

The arrests could point to another blow to the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan.
The relationship between the two countries has been in a downward spiral over disputes about how to pursue counterterrorism efforts. The United States believes Pakistan is not doing enough to go after al Qaeda and other extremists, while the Pakistanis are upset with what they consider to be unilateral steps taken by the United States within their borders.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

China building aircraft carrier - sorta. It's a refurb.


The head of China's General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has confirmed that China's first aircraft carrier is under construction.

Gen Chen Bingde refused to say when the carrier - a remodelled Soviet-era vessel, the Varyag - would be ready.

A member of his staff said the carrier would pose no threat to other nations.

The 300m (990ft) carrier, which is being built in the north-east port of Dalian, has been one of China's worst-kept secrets, analysts say.

Gen Chen made his comments to the Chinese-language Hong Kong Commercial Daily newspaper.

Symbol of power
The PLA - the largest army in the world - is hugely secretive about its defence programme.

The carrier was constructed in the 1980s for the Soviet navy but was never completed. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the rusting hull of the Varyag sat in dockyards in Ukraine.

The giant, grey hulk of China's newest warship, 60,000 tonnes of steel, sits at a dockside in the port of Dalian, almost ready to set sail”

Read Damian Grammaticas' report from Dalian
A Chinese company with links to the PLA bought the Varyag claiming it wanted to turn it into a floating casino in Macau.

The carrier is thought to be nearly finished, and is expected to begin sea trials later this year.

But the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says that does not mean it will then be ready to undertake operational duties.

Learning how to operate it - and fly planes off it - will take a few more years to master, our correspondent says.

Lt Gen Qi Jianguo, assistant chief of the general staff, told the Hong Kong Commercial Daily that even after the aircraft carrier was deployed, it would "definitely not sail to other countries' territorial waters".

"All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers - they are symbols of a great nation," he was quoted as saying.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

bin Laden's number two - wants to be number one.

ABC NEWS: Appearing to assume the role as the new leader of al Qaeda, the former number two Ayman al-Zawahiri vowed to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden "blood for blood," in a video posted on the internet Wednesday morning.

The 28-minute video is the first statement from the 59-year-old al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, to acknowledge the death of bin Laden, killed in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid into Pakistan last month. Looking aged, and at times angry, al-Zawahiri used a chopping motion with his hands and urged his followers to remember the 9/11 attacks against American and made a point to recall the deaths of US military personnel at the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahiri did not specifically mention whether he was now the leader of the terror group's global jihad, but his tone and words suggested he had the legitimacy to succeed bin Laden.

His anger was apparent as he criticized the U.S. for the manner in which bin Laden was reportedly buried at sea from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. He called it not Islamic, but "the Islam of the United States, the Islam of Obama."

Elsewhere in the message, in which al-Zawahiri appeared with an automatic rifle to his side, he urged the youth of Pakistan to follow the led of the youth of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria seek to overthrow the government.

Al-Zawahiri, founder of the Egyptian extremist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad, also helped found al Qaeda with bin Laden. He sports the largest bounty offered for information on any terrorist by the U.S. government -- $25 million -- and is wanted for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which claimed 224 lives.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications Hacked

IT Security & Network Security News
Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications Hacked via Cloned RSA SecurID Tokens

25 Days after Lockheed Martin disclosed a cyber-attack on its networks, reports emerged that two more major defense contractors have also been affected.

Another defense contractor appears to have been hit by a cyber-attack, and a leaked memo indicates company executives believe attackers used information stolen from RSA Security earlier this year. If true, RSA’s SecurID technology may be irrevocably compromised.

Attackers hit major defense contractor L-3 Communications Holdings by spoofing pass codes from a cloned RSA SecurID token, Reuters reported May 27. The attackers may have used a similar method to target another defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, on May 21. The second-largest U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman may also have been hacked, as the company shut down remote access to its network without warning on May 26, according to Fox News.

L-3 Communications was formed out of 10 business units that had been spun off by Lockheed prior to its merger with Martin Marietta in 1995. L-3 is a major supplier of communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology to the Department of Defense.

"L-3 Communications has been actively targeted with penetration attacks leveraging the compromised information," an L-3 executive wrote April 6 in an internal memo obtained by Wired Threat Level.

It’s not clear from the internal email whether attackers managed to actually break into L-3 networks, or if they were detected in the midst of the attack. The memo also did not specify exactly why or how L-3 came to the conclusion that the SecurID two-factor authentication system was at fault. An L-3 spokesperson just said the company takes security seriously and that the incident has been resolved.

RSA Security admitted March 17 that cyber-attackers had breached its network and obtained “information relating to the SecurID technology.” The company has steadfastly refused to publicly discuss exactly what was stolen or when the breach actually occurred. RSA later disclosed that it had been hit by a phishing email exploiting a zero-day vulnerability in Adobe Reader.

At the time, RSA executive chairman Art Coviello said the stolen information “could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack.”

For someone to break into a SecurID-protect network, the attacker would need at least one employee's user name and pass code as well as have some idea of which services that employee had access to.

While the details of these attacks are not “fully known,” it is likely that attackers were able to install a keylogger somewhere within the network, according to Harry Sverdlove, CTO of security firm Bit9. The information captured and knowledge of RSA’s token-generation algorithm would give attackers a way to breach the network, Sverdlove said, noting that this would be a “worst case scenario” for SecurID.

“It would mean that a single point of attack can be used to defeat the dual-factor authentication provided by the security tokens,” Sverdlove said.

The keylogger may have been installed on a remote system that connected to the network via a VPN. This makes sense, since the “best bet” is to attack vulnerable endpoints, or computers that are connecting remotely and are likely not under the direct control of the organization’s security policies.

Northrop Grumman does not comment on cyber-attacks against it, the company spokesperson said. It’s also unclear how Northrop Grumman was hit, as ComputerWorld reported that the defense contractor replaced all its SecurID tokens with tokens from a different vendor “immediately” after the RSA breach.


Monday, June 6, 2011

TD Barnes on Area 51 Annie Jascobsen: "Stolen Valor "

From TD Barnes Blog:

Excerpt: Jacobsen’s book, “Area 51 an uncensored history of America’s Top Secret Military Base” has excited those who subscribe to activism, scandal, conspiracy, Nazi and Stalin atrocities, and child mutilation, and is racing towards being a number one seller. The scandal is not the veterans, named and unnamed, whom the public now affiliates to the wild, unsubstantiated gory “facts” contained in the last chapter of the book where Jacobsen ventures into writing as an activist in the first person. The scandal is Jacobsen who is fending off international condemnation by the media, fellow journalists, and the veterans of Nevada’s atomic programs and DOD operations at Area 51 by now claiming that as a “reporter” it was her duty to report what she was told and that it was not her job to verify the truth. Instead of enjoying a great book that the DOD and DOE families can be proud of and share with their families, the aging Roadrunners are having to show up at Jacobsen’s book sigings, not to promote her book, but to set the record straight and clear their names and legacy.


Brits hacked al-Qaeda magazine - replace explosive recipe with cupcake recipe

Molotov cocktails? More like mojito cupcakes. In a cyber-warfare operation, British spies successfully hacked al-Qaeda's English language magazine, Inspire, and replaced bombmaking instructions with a list of cupcakes. Victory has never tasted so sweet.

The magazine is published quarterly and distributed as a pdf file. But as a result of the British cyberattack, a page in last year's summer issue titled, "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," instead provided readers with "The Best Cupcakes in America," courtesy of the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

In addition, "pages 4 through 67 of the otherwise slick magazine, including the bomb-making instructions, were garbled," and "it took almost two weeks for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to post a corrected version," the Washington Post reports. A British government official confirmed the hack to the AP Friday, saying his country is, "increasingly using cybertools."

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. considered targeting the extremist publication, but the CIA opposed those efforts, fearing that such a hack could "expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence."
British intelligence, on the other hand, decided to go forward with the cyber attack, sabotaging Inspire's launch issue and removing articles by Osama bin Laden himself. Following the terrorist leader's death, news of this attack was icing on the cupcake in the fight against al-Qaeda.

Drone attack kills al-Qaida chief Kashmiri ,,,

Pakistan's Interior Minister says he is 100 percent certain that wanted al-Qaida commander Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a recent U.S. drone strike.

Rehman Malik did not say Monday how he knew Kashmiri was killed by a missile in a militant sanctuary near the Afghan border. Pakistani intelligence has said the wanted terrorist was killed in a Friday drone strike. U.S. officials have yet to publicly comment on whether Kashmiri was killed.

Malik's has previously claimed the deaths of some Taliban leaders, only to be proven wrong later. His claim comes just hours after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said America had confirmed the death. He did not say who in the U.S. administration told him.

U.S. officials have described Kashmiri as al-Qaida's military operations chief in Pakistan.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) - The United States fired missiles at three suspected militant targets near the Afghan border Monday, killing 16 people and keeping the pressure on insurgents days after a strike was believed to have killed an al-Qaida commander, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The identities of the dead in the unusually intense volley of drone-fired strikes in the South Waziristan tribal region were not known. Several Arabs were said to be among the victims of one of them, according to the officials, who did not give their names in line with agency policy.

Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters remain in South Waziristan, despite a Pakistani army offensive launched there in 2009.

Since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 in northwest Pakistan, missile strikes have picked up pace from a relative lull in the year's first half. But anger at the bin Laden operation, seen here as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, has led to fresh calls on Washington to stop the attacks.

Pakistani authorities said Sunday that they were increasingly sure that a Friday missile strike in South Waziristan killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a top al-Qaida commander rumored to be a longshot contender to replace bin Laden as the terror network's chief.

Getting definitive confirmation about who died in the missile strikes is difficult, especially if no body is retrieved.

When asked about Kashmiri on Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said "the U.S. has confirmed that he died," but it was unclear if he was referring to private communications between the two governments. Publicly, at least, U.S. officials have not confirmed the death.

Kashmiri was wrongly said by Pakistani and American officials to have been killed in a missile strike in 2009. Pakistani officials declined to comment on whether they had assisted the U.S. in the Friday strike.

Before dawn, one set of missiles hit a compound in Wucha Dana village, killing seven people. The second set landed at about the same time at a Muslim seminary there, killing five people, two Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

They said several Arab men were believed to be among the dead.

Later Monday, missiles hit a vehicle traveling in Dra Nishter village elsewhere in the region, killing four, officials said.

Washington says the missiles have killed hundreds of militants, including several top al-Qaida commanders since they began in earnest in 2008. More than 30 have struck this year, compared to last year's tally of about 130. Some experts question their legality and the secrecy under which they operate. Transparent investigations of alleged civilian casualties are not carried out.

Pakistani intelligence is believed to provide the U.S. with targeting information for at least some of the strikes. But its civilian and military leaders publicly protest the strikes and say they create more enemies than they kill. It would be politically toxic to acknowledge collaborating with the U.S. in attacks unpopular among many Pakistanis.

Also Monday, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb that killed 18 people at a bakery in an army neighborhood in the northwest town of Nowshera the previous night. The militant group said the attack was vengeance for Pakistani army actions against them in the nearby Swat Valley.

Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Rasool Dawar in Peshawar contributed to this report.

Taliban plans to attack american targets abroad ...

(Reuters) - Pakistan's Taliban, a close ally of al Qaeda, plans to attack American targets abroad to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, said one of its senior leaders.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has delivered on threats to avenge the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a Pakistani town on May 2.

It bombed an American consulate convoy, laid siege to a naval base and blew up paramilitary cadets in Pakistan, which the Taliban sees as a U.S. puppet and Washington regards as indispensable in its war on militancy.

Omar Khalid Khorasani, the top Taliban commander in Mohmand, one of Pakistan's unruly tribal agencies, agreed to answer questions posed by Reuters and record them on a DVD.

The video starts with him and some associates sitting on the floor of a mud-walled house, eating mango slices and joking. Then he turns serious and speaks about the TTP's intentions.

Recent TTP attacks in Pakistan were only the start of bloody reprisals after bin Laden's death.

"These attacks were just a part of our revenge. God willing, the world will see how we avenge Osama bin Laden's martyrdom," said Khorasani. "We have networks in several countries outside Pakistan."

The questions were delivered to Khorasani's associates in Mohmand, and then he recorded his answers on tape and sent then back to a Reuters reporter who had interviewed him in the past.

The TTP has not demonstrated the ability to stage sophisticated attacks in the West. Its one apparent bid to carnage in the United States failed.

It claimed responsibility for the botched car bomb attack in New York's Times Square last year. But American intelligence agencies take it seriously. It was later added to the United States' list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud appeared in a video with the Jordanian double agent who blew himself up in a well-fortified U.S. base in Afghanistan last year, in the second most deadly attack in CIA history. Seven CIA officials were killed.

"Our war against America is continuing inside and outside of Pakistan. When we launch attacks, it will prove that we can hit American targets outside Pakistan," said Khorasani, a tall man with a beard and shoulder-length hair common among the ethnic Pashtun warriors of tribal areas along the Afghan border.

The TTP has built up a long C.V. of bloodshed, carrying out suicide bombings which often kill dozens. The organization gained most of its experience waging an insurgency inside Pakistan.

A loose alliance of a dozen groups, the TTP intensified its battle against the state in 2007, after a bloody army raid on Islamabad's Red Mosque, which was controlled by its allies.

Sitting with a pistol strapped to his waist and flanked by two of his comrades with AK-47 assault rifles, Khorasani said the death of bin Laden would not demoralize the Taliban.

It had in fact, injected a "new courage" into its fighters, said Khorasani, the top Taliban commander in Mohmand agency.

"The ideology given to us by Osama bin Laden and the spirit and courage that he gave to us to fight infidels of the world is alive," said Khorasani, wearing a brown shalwar kameez, traditional baggy trousers and tunics, and a round top hat.


He described Ayman al-Zawahri, the former Egyptian physician who is the likely successor to bin Laden, as the Pakistani Taliban's "chief and supreme leader."

The Pakistani Taliban are closely linked with the Afghan Taliban. They move back and forth through the porous border and exchange intelligence and provide shelter for each other in a region U.S. President Barack Obama has described as "the most dangerous place in the world."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday there could be political talks with the Afghan Taliban by the end of this year if NATO made more military advances.

If the Afghan Taliban lay down their weapons there will be no let up in the Pakistani Taliban campaign to impose its version of Islam which would see women covered from head to toe and those deemed immoral publicly whipped or executed.

"Even if some rapprochement is reached in Afghanistan, our ideology, aim and objective is to change the system in Pakistan," said Khorasani.

"Whether there is war or peace throughout the world, our struggle for the implementation of Islamic system in Pakistan will continue."

It seems the TTP expects to wage holy war for generations.

In another video clip provided by Khorasani, a young boy wearing a camouflage ammunition belt shuffles along the ground, weighed down by a Kalashnikov rifle hung over his shoulder.

(Writing by Zeeshan Haider and Michael Georgy and Sanjeev Miglani)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pentagon wants to fight cyber attacks with missile attacks ...

The Pentagon will soon release a strategy that formalizes a long-articulated position: the United States reserves the right to launch conventional attacks in response to the cyber kind. But figuring out who is behind such attacks may be difficult, or impossible.

"To say that cyberattacks can be acts of war, and that they can be met by kinetic responses, simply confirms a longstanding Department of Defense consensus," says Stewart Baker, a lawyer who was policy chief at the Department of Homeland Security for part of the Bush administration. "Neither of those statements make a strategy, however."

Baker adds that the threat "is much less effective than we'd like, because we largely lack the ability to identify who is attacking us in cyberspace. Until we solve that problem, we might as well claim that we'll respond to cyberattacks by blowing horns until our attackers' fortifications all fall down and their ships all sink."


Was Annie Jacobsen's Area 51 claims based on pulp fiction?

Great article - here on how Annie Jacobsen's claims on Area 51 and Roswell may be related to a pulp-fiction Science Fiction novel.

-Steve Douglass

bin Laden "attack planner" arrested

(CNN) -- A former associate of Osama bin Laden, described by authorities as a "Pakistan-based attack planner," has been arrested in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the NATO-led coalition said Thursday.

The International Security Assistance Force declined to identify the man, saying it was not releasing further information.

"It's part of an ongoing operation," Army Maj. Tim James, spokesman for ISAF's joint command, told CNN by telephone from Afghanistan.
The man was arrested along with two others described as "associates," according to ISAF, during a raid Wednesday in the northern province of Balkh, an insurgent stronghold that borders Uzbekistan.

He was captured during an overnight operation after he was tracked to a compound in Nahr-e Shahi, the statement said.

Gutsy Pakistani Journalist Murdered

Editor's note: CNN's Tim Lister writes about the Middle East and South Asia.
(CNN) -- I never met Pakistani journalist Sayed Saleem Shahzad, but we exchanged e-mails about his work for Asia Times Online, and his remarkable scoops in interviewing some of the world's most wanted terrorists.

He was an investigative reporter in the truest sense, disappearing to remote areas of Waziristan for clandestine interviews, working contacts within Pakistan's byzantine security apparatus, delving into a murky world of conspiracies and shifting (often deadly) allegiances.
In the end, it was Shahzad's endless probing that probably killed him. On Sunday night, he was on his way from his home in the Pakistani capital to a TV station to do an interview on the security threats faced by Pakistan.

He never got there. His body was found Tuesday some 250 kilometers (155 miles) away, close to his car. It showed signs of torture, according to Pakistani media reports.
You could pick any number of stories that Shahzad had written as Asia Times' Pakistan bureau chief that would have embarrassed or infuriated someone.

Long-time colleague Zafar Mehmud Sheikh told CNN-IBN after his murder: "He was an extremely critical writer. His writings in Asia Times were not liked by many circles, especially power corridors, and that's why he was always getting threats, direct life threats not from one side, from all sides."
Many Pakistani journalists believe he was killed by elements within the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, because of his frequent reporting about co-operation and contacts between Pakistani security officials and extremist groups. He is known to have received several warnings about his reporting from the ISI. But it is equally possible that his reporting had gone too far for the likes of one of the many militant groups he was in touch with.
Shahzad had recently turned several controversial pieces about the attack by militants on the Pakistani naval base in Karachi.
One of them began in a way that would not have gone well at ISI headquarters, describing the attack as "the violent beginning of an internal ideological struggle between Islamist elements in the Pakistani armed forces and their secular and liberal top brass."
He also cited (as he often did) unnamed sources in the ISI, Pakistan's military intelligence service, quoting one as saying: "It was shown several months ago that the Pakistan navy is vulnerable to Islamists when a marine commando unit official was arrested.....Now, they (intelligence) realize how the organization (navy) is riddled and vulnerable to the influence of militant organizations."
In a follow-up article on May 27, Shahzad wrote: "Insiders at PNS Mehran (the Karachi naval base) provided maps, pictures of different exit and entry routes taken in daylight and at night, the location of hangers and details of likely reaction from external security forces."

Coming just weeks after the killing of Osama bin Laden a mile from Pakistan's most prestigious military academy, such reporting must have touched plenty of raw nerves within Pakistan's security establishment. It would not have been the first time.

In October 2010, Shahzad was summoned to a meeting at the ISI headquarters in Islamabad.
According to an e-mail of the meeting Shahzad later sent to a friend, the ISI asked him to write a retraction of a story about the release of a Taliban commander. Shahzad refused.

He was then told by an ISI official: "We have recently arrested a terrorist and have recovered a lot of data, dairies and other material during the interrogation. The terrorist had a hit list with him. If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know."

In comments about the e-mail made to the Associated Press of Pakistan, an ISI official said it had "no veiled or unveiled threats in it," The ISI "makes it a point to notify institutions and individuals alike of any threat warning received about them," he added.

But it is equally possible that Shahzad had become too knowledgeable about the operations of Islamist extremists for their comfort. He certainly had amazing connections within these groups.
Last year he wrote a fascinating piece about how the Pakistani Taliban had freed an Iranian diplomat they had kidnapped in exchange for anti-aircraft guns that might help them combat U.S. drone attacks.
More recently, he spoke with Maulvi Nazir, a Taliban leader who is one of the most powerful men in Pakistan's restive tribal territory of South Waziristan and who has long been on Pakistan's most wanted list. It was the first time Nazir had ever spoken with a journalist; and Shahzad dared to ask him about his record of opposing al Qaeda:

"Nazir's expression turned serious and he seemed a little tense, but in a fraction of a second he calmed down and replied with firmness. 'This is wrong that I am anti-al Qaeda. I am part of al Qaeda.'"

Shahzad could turn a wry sentence, too. At the end of the same article, he wrote: "I was on the point of asking for elaboration when Nazir said, "Why don't you join us for lunch," indicating in the most polite but unmistakable manner that the interview was over. "

The last time we exchanged e-mails it was about his forthcoming book: "Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban." I was planning to review it for; he was pleased it would get some international exposure and proud of what he'd written. "It gives the detailed account on the real mastermind of Mumbai attack and how the same person changed the dynamics of Afghanistan war theatre," he wrote to me.

Shahzad was referring to Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the most feared terrorists in the world. His 313 Brigade is by many accounts closely linked to al Qaeda. In October 2009, Shahzad also became the first and only journalist to interview Kashmiri -- traveling for two days into a remote border area. At one point he was confined to a room and told: "The area is full of Taliban, but also of informers whose information on the presence of strangers in a house could lead to a drone attack."

When he finally was introduced to Kashmiri, his first question was a zinger: "So, you have survived a third drone strike ... why is the CIA sniffing around you so much?"

Fellow journalist Mazheer Abbas knew Shahzad for twenty years, and was always worried about his safety. They first met when Shahzad joined the Karachi-based newspaper The Star. "He started as a junior reporter," Abbas told CNN's Kiran Khalid. "Immediately he started coming out with stories on ethnic conflicts, sectarianism."

"I noticed that he started moving around with people who had close contacts with militants and the intelligence agencies. I told him to be very careful because you could be used by somebody."
"He was courageous but not very careful while reporting," Abbas said -- saying Shahzad had a tendency to talk openly about his contacts. "The level of distrust was very much there among intelligence agencies as well as militant groups. He would move forward and come out with the courageous stories despite the dangers."

And Abbas says Shahzad knew his stuff. "There are not many journalists who have so much command on militant groups the way he did," he said.

Shahzad's kidnapping, in the Pakistani capital's most protected area, has shocked Pakistani journalists. His friend Zafar Sheikh said: "A person has to think a hundred times before saying anything, before writing anything, before making a report. Before performing our journalistic duties, we think a hundred times about who will be angered by it, who will be so incensed that he will want to kill you."

Shahzad never let such thoughts stop him reporting.
He leaves a wife and three children.
CNN's Kiran Khalid contributed to this report

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Endeavour Lands, Atlantis at Launch Pad

Wed, 01 Jun 2011 08:25:40 AM CDT

Space shuttle Endeavour completed its final flight by delivering the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station during the STS-134 mission.

"I think we all should be really impressed how big and magnificent that space station is," said STS-134 Mission Specialist Mike Fincke at the crew press conference following landing. Describing their parting view of the space station where he served once as crew and once as commander, he said, "We were impressed; we were excited like five-year olds at a rollercoaster park."

"What a great ending to this really wonderful mission," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations. In regard to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, Gerstenmaier said, "They're getting great data from their instrument on board the space station. It couldn’t have gone any better for this mission."

"We've had a lot going on here," said Mike Moses, space shuttle launch integration manager, "Being able to send Atlantis out to the pad and then go out and land Endeavour was really a combination I never expected to have."

Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director, added, "It's been a great morning at the Kennedy Space Center."

Endeavour landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after 248 orbits around Earth and a journey of 6,510,221 miles. The STS-134 mission was the 25th and final flight for Endeavour, which spent a total of 299 days in space, orbited Earth 4,671 times and traveled 122,883,151 miles.

Also overnight, space shuttle Atlantis completed its 3.4 mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A and was secured to the launch pad at 3:29 a.m. The move began Tuesday at 8:42 p.m. and took approximately 7 hours.


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