Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breaking: unknown hazardous material release sickens 200 near border

New Mexico authorities say an unknown hazardous material release sickened about 200 people Tuesday near the Mexican border just northwest of El Paso, Texas.
A one-mile area surrounding the industrial park and border crossing at Santa Teresa was evacuated for a few hours Tuesday, and the nearby airport was closed. By Tuesday afternoon, only the industrial park remained off-limits as hazmat crews took samples to determine what made the people sick.
A New Mexico National Guard support team was en route to help with monitoring and testing.
Officials say some people from businesses in the industrial park were taken to Santa Teresa High School as a precaution after complaining of breathing problems, light-headedness, nausea and dizziness.
Some people also described a burning sensation on their skin.
"I got there after they barricaded the road. When I rolled down the window, I started feeling irritation on my skin," said Gerardo Gomez, who was on his way to work. "It felt like when you get chile on your skin."
Workers a few miles away said they could smell something in the air.
No serious injuries were reported and no one was hospitalized.
Dona Ana County spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said officials started getting calls from people about 8:30 a.m.
Emergency officials from Texas and New Mexico responded, and people in nearby homes and businesses were told to stay indoors, seal all doors and windows and turn off air conditioning and heating systems.
Officials said the evacuation area did not include any homes.
Classes were also cancelled at a medical college located in the industrial area, which is also home to wire and paper manufacturing businesses and warehouses.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Iran naval task force 'docks in Sudan after mystery explosion

An Iranian naval task force has docked in Sudan, carrying with it a "message of peace and security to neighbouring countries", Iranian state media report.

The vessels, which include a corvette and freighter, set sail from Iran last month, the Irna news agency said.

Their arrival comes six days after explosions destroyed an arms factory in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Sudan has complained to the UN that Israel bombed the factory, which is believed to have been operated by Iran.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the incident.Anti-piracy patrol

According to Iranian state media, the naval task force which docked in Sudan on Monday morning includes the Shahid Naqdi, a corvette-class vessel, and the Kharg, a supply vessel that can carry three helicopters.

The Iranian navy was quoted as saying the visit was aimed at "conveying the message of peace and friendship to the neighbouring countries and ensuring security for seafaring and shipping lanes against marine terrorism and piracy".

The commanders of the Iranian flotilla were said to have met Sudanese navy commanders during the docking ceremony.

The location of the port was not given by Irna, but the semi-official Fars news agency said the task force had docked in Port Sudan.

The vessels reportedly left the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas for international waters in September.

Iranian vessels have been part of an international flotilla of warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, since 2008, when Somali pirates hijacked an Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.'Impact craters'

Iran made no connection between the task force's arrival and the explosions at the al-Yarmouk military depot and ammunition plant, which left two people dead.

However, unconfirmed reports over the weekend suggested the facility was being used by Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to produce weapons for the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas.

On Saturday, the Satellite Sentinel Project said satellite images showed six large craters, about 16m (52ft) across and "consistent with impact craters created by air-delivered munitions, centred in a location where, until recently some 40 shipping containers had been stacked".

"A 12 October image shows the storage containers stacked next to a 60m-long shed," it added. "While we cannot confirm the containers remained on the site on 24 October, analysis of the imagery is consistent with the presence of highly volatile cargo in the epicentre of the explosions."

Reports suggest that shortly after midnight on Wednesday, four Israeli warplanes attacked the factory with two one-tonne bombs.

They were supported by helicopters carrying commandos to rescue any of the air crew in case they were shot down, the reports added. Another aircraft jammed Sudanese radar and air-defence systems, as well as disrupting local communications.

They reportedly took off from the Negev desert and re-fuelled in flight.

It is alleged that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency found documents relating to Iranian and Sudanese weapons manufacture on a senior Hamas official it is accused of assassinating in Dubai in 2010.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says Israel will not confirm any of the allegations officially, but it has carried out a series of raids inside Sudan down the years.

However, the Sudanese government said in May that one person had been killed after a car exploded in Port Sudan. That explosion resembled one last year which left two people dead and was blamed on an Israeli missile strike, it added.

HackRf software radio could be a tool or a security headache

FORBES: Since the days of Alan Turing, the promise of a digital computer has been that of a universal machine, one that can be a word processor one minute and a robot brain the next. So why are radios, a technology even older than computers, still designed stubbornly to do one thing–like 3G, Wifi, FM, or GPS–for their entire lives?

In fact, the era of the single-purpose radio is over, says Michael Ossmann, the founder of an Evergreen, Colorado company called Great Scott Gadgets. And he believes he’s built the one cheap, hacker-friendly radio to rule them all.

At the ToorCon hacker conference in San Diego Saturday, Ossmann and his research partner Jared Boone plan to unveil a beta version of the  HackRF Jawbreaker, the latest model of the wireless Swiss-army knife tools known as “software-defined radios.” Like any software-defined radio, the HackRF can shift between different frequencies as easily as a computer switches between applications–It can both read and transmit signals from 100 megaherz to 6 gigaherz, including frequencies as low as the range used by FM radio up to the gigaherz frequencies used by Wifi or experimental wireless protocols for cars communicating in traffic. In between those bookends lies everything from police radio to cellular signals from AT&T and Verizon to garage door openers–all signals that HackRF can instantaneously intercept or reproduce. 
And at Ossmann’s target price of $300, the versatile, open-source devices would cost less than half as much as currently existing software-defined radios with the same capabilities.
“Pretty much any wireless device that you can think of would be in the frequency range covered by HackRF,” says Ossmann.”Just from observing [a signal] over the air, you can reverse engineer it completely to figure out the information transmitted over the network, and potentially inject your own transmissions onto that network. All of that can be done with one HackRF device and a laptop.”

With HackRF in the hands of hackers or security researchers, in other words, no wireless signal would remain secure just by virtue of using a unique, unfamiliar frequency. Ossmann says that tools like HackRF mean wireless communications will need to evolve beyond the “security through obscurity” model of protecting communications that has long been considered outmoded in the wired computing world.
In a presentation at the Black Hat and Defcon security conference for instance, French security researcher Andre Costin presented vulnerabilities in the next-generation air traffic control system known as ADS-B that he said would allow a hacker with a software-defined radio to track and even spoof planes in the sky, potentially creating dangerous distractions for pilots. The more accessible software-defined radios become, he warned, the more that threat materializes.
But Costin argued that meant ADS-B needs more security–not that software-defined radios themselves are dangerous. “Software-defined radios are a good thing and an important tool for research,” he told me. “A knife is a good thing in the kitchen but can be abused to do bad things. SDRs are the same.”
The Pentagon, at least, seems to think software-defined radios are a promising tool. To fund the beta testing phase of HackRF, the Department of Defense research arm known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) pitched in $200,000 last February as part of its Cyber Fast Track program.
HackRF is far from the only attempt to create an affordable software-defined radio. A  device called the USRP has been available for a few years from the company Ettus Research, though it ranges in price from $800 to $2000 depending on its capabilities. Hackers have also created far cheaper models of software defined radio adapted from TV tuners that cost less than $50. But those bootleg versions have a more limited frequency range and can only receive signals, not transmit them.  ”HackRF fits right in the middle,” says Tom Rondeau, who manages the open-source radio software project GNU Radio. “There hasn’t been a way to transmit and receive at such a low cost, and that’s a big deal.”
Before founding Great Scott Gadgets, Ossmann honed his wireless expertise as a security researcher at the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Lab in Boulder, Colorado, a job he described as being “the one security guy in a lab full of radio engineers.” But he says HackRF’s low cost is also largely the result of Moore’s Law: cheaper integrated circuits available only in the last few years have made the intensive computing needs software-defined radios far more accessible.
Ossmann isn’t shy about admitting the ways HackRF’s capabilities and cost could disrupt current security models for wireless communications. Better to put cheap software-defined radios in the hands of penetration testers who can demonstrate the insecurity of those communications than to reserve the technology only for better-funded attackers who would exploit the same wireless communications in secret.
But Ossmann also hopes it will be adopted by a wide spectrum of hackers and researchers who will use it for experimentation and creative purposes even he can’t predict. “If someone does something cool with HackRF and I say ‘Wow, I’ve never thought of that,’” he says, “That’s when I’ll know the project is a success.”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Islamic extremists terrorizing eastern Libya

DARNA, Libya — Operating from the shadows, armed Islamist extremists are terrorizing the eastern Libyan city of Darna, six weeks after the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi threw a spotlight on Libya’s growing religious extremism.
A campaign of bombings and death threats aimed at Libyan government targets is being blamed on armed Islamist extremists, including the city’s most powerful militia, the Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade, whose ideology residents say is akin to al-Qaeda’s
What is unfolding here may be the most extreme example of the confrontation underway across Libya, underscoring just how deeply the fundamentalists have sown their seeds in the security vacuum that has defined Libya since the fall of Moammar Gaddafi last September.
The extremists have continued to operate here despite the popular backlash that followed last month’s attack in Benghazi, 156 miles to the west, and despite fears of possible retaliation by the United States, whose unmanned drone aircraft can now be heard humming overhead almost every day.
For now, the militants appear to have taken cover in urban homes and farms in the remote Green Mountains that surround the city. But officials say the local government remains powerless to stop them, even as the extremists push their ideology just as fervently as before.
“No one will stop anyone from doing anything,” said Fathalla al-Awam, the head of the largely toothless local council, and militants are free to come and go from the city and surrounding areas as they please. “There’s no police, no army and no militias. Nothing. It’s an open city from east and west.’’
Some Libyans say the extremist views are held much more broadly than just among the Islamist militias themselves, a fact they said the United States has failed to understand in the wake of the Benghazi attack. Not all of the extremists in Darna or elsewhere in Libya belong to a group, they said. But those who share al-Qaeda’s ideology are many, they said, and that creates ample opportunity for recruitment.
“It’s a way of thinking,” said Saad Belgassim, who used to work as a bureaucrat in Darna’s now defunct court system. “They kidnap people like they do in Afghanistan. They delude young people and send them off to bomb themselves.”
In some ways, the sway that Islamists hold here is not a surprise. Neglected, conservative and desperately poor under Gaddafi, Darna stood out for its fierce Islamist resistance to the old regime — and for sending more jihadists to Iraq during the U.S. occupation than any other place in Libya.
The latest bombing here came early Thursday morning, when an explosion ripped through a building on the city’s eastern outskirts that local authorities had hoped to use to support a new security force. Often, the locals say, the target is a car belonging to an official or journalist who has dared to defy the militias. A newly appointed police chief was slain in broad daylight last March with a quick round of bullets to the back as he filled up his tank at the gas station.

Friday, October 26, 2012

President Obama dodges the elephant in the room - twice.

BREIBART: Kyle Clark, a political reporter for Denver news station 9News, asked Obama, "Were the Americans under attack at the consulate in Benghazi Libya denied requests for help during that attack?"

Obama merely said, "nobody wants to find out more" about what happened than he does, and the administration was still gathering facts to "find out exactly what happened." Earlier in the day, a report came out that revealed the Obama administration denied the urgent pleas for help from CIA agents in Libya during the attacks.

"Well, the election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened," Obama asserted. "These are folks who served under me who I had sent to some very dangerous places. Nobody wants to find out more what happened than I do."

When Clark pressed Obama a second time, the President again punted, answering, "we are finding out exactly what happened."

Obama protested, "the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives," the first of which was to "make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to."

E-mails released this week, though, revealed the Obama administration knew within two hours that al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists were behind the attacks, and on Friday the father of a slain Navy SEAL who disobeyed orders and went to the consulate to help said the Obama administration's claims of ignorance are "a pack of lies."

Charles Woods, the father of Ty Woods, said his son "disobeyed" his orders not to go the U.S. consulate and was an "American hero" for having the "moral strength to do what was right," even if "that would professionally cost him his job" -- or his life.

Woods also said that if "those people in the White House were as courageous" as his son and had his moral strength, they would have "given permission, not denied permission" immediately after they found out about the attacks for CIA agents to go to the consulate to help protects the Americans the terrorists were attacking.

Below is the transcript of News9's exchange with the President:

KYLE CLARK: Were the Americans under attack at the consulate in Benghazi Libya denied requests for help during that attack? And is it fair to tell Americans that what happened is under investigation and we'll all find out after the election?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened. These are folks who served under me who I had sent to some very dangerous places. Nobody wants to find out more what happened than I do. But we want to make sure we get it right, particularly because I have made a commitment to the families impacted as well as to the American people, we're going to bring those folks to justice. So, we're going to gather all the facts, find out exactly what happened, and make sure that it doesn't happen again but we're also going to make sure that we bring to justice those who carried out these attacks.

KYLE CLARK: Were they denied requests for help during the attack?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we are finding out exactly what happened. I can tell you, as I've said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we're going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn't happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we're going to find out exactly what happened, but what we're also going to do it make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.

Permanent Secret Drone Base Taking Shape in Africa

WASHPOST/DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti — Around the clock, about 16 times a day, secret drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia, the collapsed state whose border lies just 10 miles to the southeast. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, another unstable country where they are being used inan increasingly deadly war with an al-Qaeda franchise that has targeted the United States.
Camp Lemonnier, a sun-baked Third World outpost established by the French Foreign Legion, began as a temporary staging ground for U.S. Marines looking for a foothold in the region a decade ago. Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed it into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups.
The Obama administration has gone toextraordinary lengths to conceal the legal and operational details of its targeted-killing program. Behind closed doors, painstaking debates precede each decision to place an individual in the cross hairs of the United States’ perpetual war against al-Qaeda and its allies.
Increasingly, the orders to find, track or kill those people are delivered toCamp Lemonnier. Virtually the entire 500-acre camp is dedicated to counterterrorism, making it the only installation of its kind in the Pentagon’s global network of bases.
Secrecy blankets most of the camp’s activities. The U.S. military rejected requests from The Washington Post to tour Lemonnier last month. Officials cited “operational security concerns,” although they have permitted journalists to visit in the past.
After a Post reporter showed up in Djibouti uninvited, the camp’s highest-ranking commander consented to an interview — on the condition that it take place away from the base, at Djibouti's lone luxury hotel. The commander, ArmyMaj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, answered some general queries but declined to comment on drone operations or missions related to Somalia or Yemen.
Despite the secrecy, thousands of pages of military records obtained by The Post — including construction blueprints, drone accident reports and internal planning memos — open a revealing window into Camp Lemonnier. None of the documents is classified and many were acquired via public-records requests.
Taken together, the previously undisclosed documents show how the Djibouti-based drone wars sharply escalated early last year after eight Predators arrived at Lemonnier. The records also chronicle the Pentagon’s ambitious plan to further intensify drone operations here in the coming months.
The documents point to the central role played by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which President Obama has repeatedly relied on to execute the nation’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions.
About 300 Special Operations personnel plan raids and coordinate drone flights from inside a high-security compound at Lemonnier that is dotted with satellite dishes and ringed by concertina wire. Most of the commandos work incognito, concealing their names even from conventional troops on the base.
Other counterterrorism work at Lemonnier is more overt. All told, about 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians and contractors are assigned to the camp, where they train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root.
In Washington, the Obama administration has taken a series of steps to sustain the drone campaign for another decade, developing an elaborate new targeting database, called the “disposition matrix,” and a classified “playbook” to spell out how decisions on targeted killing are made.
Djibouti is the clearest example of how the United States is laying the groundwork to carry out these operations overseas. For the past decade, the Pentagon has labeled Lemonnier an “expeditionary,” or temporary, camp. But it is now hardening into the U.S. military’s first permanent drone war base.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Things in Khartoum go boom!

TIME:On Oct. 23, an enormous explosion erupted around a government-run ammunitions factory on the outskirts of Sudan‘s capital Khartoum. Terrified residents in the area reported a blackout, the whizz of a rocket, then a huge blast which sent white sparks into the night sky and materiel flying in all directions. While the first official report suggested that it was due to an accidental explosion in a storage room, Khartoum later blamed Israel for launching the attack. “We believe that Israel is behind it,” said Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman adding that the planes had approached from the east.
The Sudanese government claims that four Israeli strike planes launched the attack, which partially destroyed al-Yarmouk ammunition factory and killed two civilians. “The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty,” Osman said adding that “Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel.” Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Sudanese army (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, suggested there could be spies within the SAF as well; the military had had plans to relocate the factory. He also said that Israel had previously voiced their concern about the factory but had acted on false information that they were producing heavy weapons.
The strike could be the latest incident of a longstanding clandestine war between Sudan and Israel—spurred by the latter’s desire to thwart the alleged supply of weapons from or via Sudan to Hamas, the Islamist group ensconced in the Gaza Strip. It’s believed that, with a growing number of seaborne arms shipments from Iran, a Hamas ally, getting seized and confiscated, Tehran has used Sudan as a staging ground to supply Hamas’s fighters overland.
Still, analysts have voiced scepticism over Khartoum’s latest accusations. “The Sudanese officials accounts seem a bit far fetched,” Sudan expert at Jane’s Intelligence Richard Cochrane told TIME. “If the aircrafts were supposedly radar evading then how did they know were four?” Cochrane also highlighted the possibility that it was an accidental explosion in the storage room, as had initially been reported by the Khartoum state governor. “There has been a lot of pressure on the Sudanese regime internally. Military campaigns in the South are not going well, there’s social unrest on the streets, a declining economy,” says Cochrane. “These are times of internal pressure when the regime would be keen to deflect attention outwards and Israel has always been a prime candidate”
Sudanese political analyst Alhajj Hamad challenges claims that there were four planes which conducted the attack. Instead, Hamad concludes from speaking with military sources, there was only one plane, which was a drone. He also says that his military sources say the air strike did not target the factory but was actually very specific. “It was targeting a drone ammunition store next to the factory, which in turn affected the factory,” he told TIME. “As usual there is an official story, and another story.” Fueling rumors of further obfuscation, local reporters say they were prevented from viewing the attack site.
While Sudan’s information minister stated that the factory made “traditional weapons,” it appears there might have been something more valuable. According to Israeli military analyst Alon Ben-David, it must have been a considerably high valuable target for Israel. “You don’t send four strike fighters 1900km to destroy a factory that produces grad rockets,” Ben-David told TIME. “It also puts into question whether strike aircrafts were actually used.” It would have been a major operation requiring refueling, support aircrafts, electronic mission aircrafts and rescue support, explains Ben-David. “A lot to just prevent arms smuggling.”
Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak refused to comment on Channel 2 News, saying “I have nothing I can say about the matter.”
If Khartoum’s allegations are correct, this will not be the first time Israel has struck out at Sudan. In 2011, Israel launched an attack on a car in Port Sudan which killed two people. Rumours say one of the people killed was a high ranking Hamas official. At the time, Ali Karter, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, said Israel had launched the attack to ruin Sudan’s chances of being removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. They had been placed on the list in 1997 for supporting various terrorist groups and harboring Osama bin Laden during the 1990s. In 2009, Israel was blamed for reported drone attacks on weapons smuggling convoys in northeastern Sudan. In 2010, Mahmoud Mabhouh, a key Hamas arms smuggler, was assassinated in Dubai. Israel declined to comment on all these incidents.
Sudan appears to be taking this latest attack seriously. Sudan’s envoy to the UN Security Council Daffa-All Elhag Osman has said he intends to file an official complaint. And Khartoum has said it’s planning decisive actions against Israeli interests, adding that they now have the right to do so when and how they choose. Whether or not Sudan has the capability, though, is far less certain. For all the bluster, analysts aren’t expecting much of a retaliation. Although it might have only been an ammunition storage depot, the attack could mean much more for Tel Aviv.“These kind of attacks are always an example of one’s abilities,” says Abon-David. “If you go the same distance east, they have demonstrated their capability to reach Tehran at a crucial time.”

Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/10/25/did-israel-bomb-a-sudanese-ammunition-depot/#ixzz2ALgcER2o

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

US Drone beamed Benghazi attack live - WH doesn't respond.

Credit: various news sources/NY POST:

Inside sources say the U.S. military had Predator drone flying over the Benghazi consulate during the attack that claimed the life of ambassador Christopher Stevens, Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and agent Sean Smith.

 That drone, as well as “other reconnaissance aircraft” seemingly observed what is now being characterized as the “final hours of the protracted battle.” 

How protracted? It has now been revealed that the last two Americans weren’t killed until more than six hours after the attack began.

Yet even as this information has been revealed, the State Department, White House, and Pentagon have refused to say what options might have been available. 

According to CBS News, a White House official revealed that, when the attack began, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”

That’s a remarkable admission, one that reeks of a bureaucratic mindset in which the execution of four Americans is seemingly mitigated in some fashion by the fact that “established policies” were followed. Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen wasn’t buying that excuse. 

“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen contended. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”

But as Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three colleagues were killed by terrorists armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Defense Department officials were too slow to send in the troops, Berntsen said.
The Pentagon said it moved a team of special operators from Central Europe to Sigonella, Italy — about an hour flight from Libya — but gave no other details.
Fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships — which could have been used to help disperse the bloodthirsty mob — were also stationed at three nearby bases, sources told the network.
When the attack began, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies,” a White House official told the network.
Even as the administration continues to vow that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, the man identified by witnesses as a ringleader in the attack continues to walk the streets of Libya without fear of arrest.
Ahmad Abu Khattala has admitted being at the consulate during the horrific attack but has yet to be questioned by any Libyan authorities.
Abu Khattala spoke to a New York Times reporter Thursday from a hotel patio as he sipped a strawberry frappe and mocked the US and Libyan governments.
“These reports say that no one knows where I am and that I am hiding,” he boasted. “But here I am in the open, sitting in a hotel with you. I’m even going to pick up my sister’s kids from school soon.”
Lax security at the consulate was an open secret.
Stevens wrote a cable in June that there wasn’t enough security at the consulate, and he noted there had been a recent spike in attacks against “international organizations and foreign interests,” ABC News said.
The ambassador wrote another cable in August that read, “A series of violent incidents has dominated the political landscape during the Ramadan holiday.”
Stevens said that the incidents were “organized” and that the Libyan security force had “not coalesced into a stabilizing force and [provided] little deterrence.”
Several requests for additional security in Benghazi were made to the State Department prior to the attack. They were all rejected.

Successful CHAMP test means lights out for the enemy

Cruising fast over the Western Utah Desert, a lone missile makes history at the Utah Test and Training Range. The missile, known as CHAMP, or Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project may one day change modern warfare, by defeating electronic targets with little or no collateral damage.
On Oct. 16th at 10:32 a.m. MST a Boeing Phantom Works team along with members from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate team, and Raytheon Ktech, suppliers of the High Power Microwave source, huddled in a conference room at Hill Air Force Base and watched the history making test unfold on a television monitor.

CHAMP approached its first target and fired a burst of High Power Microwaves at a two story building built on the test range. Inside rows of personal computers and electrical systems were turned on to gauge the effects of the powerful radio waves.
Seconds later the PC monitors went dark and cheers erupted in the conference room. CHAMP had successfully knocked out the computer and electrical systems in the target building. Even the television cameras set up to record the test were knocked off line without collateral damage.
“This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive,”
In all, seven targets were hit using CHAMP’s high power microwaves in the one-hour test that degraded and defeated the electronics inside the test buildings.
James Dodd, vice president of Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft, part of Phantom Works said there is a real need for a weapon that can defeat a target and not cause harm to people and structures.
“We know this has some capabilities and some impact, we’re really trying to engage the customer to see if there is a way we can actually get this fielded and implemented sooner than later,” Dodd said.
Coleman, who led the Boeing team in the historic test flight, says the team is currently analyzing data and telemetry from the test that many consider a big step in modern non-lethal warfare.
“Today we turned science fiction into science fact,” Coleman said.

Taliban spinning conspiracy theory to spark more attacks on US.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — It’s a well-known fact in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden died in 2006 and that the U.S. commando raid on his compound in May 2011 was merely a “drama” orchestrated by President Obama to help win reelection.
Of course, if that were true, Obama might have waited until after the first presidential debate of the campaign season to fake the al-Qaeda leader’s killing.
Some national newspapers and TV cable outlets routinely report that the United States is behind terrorist attacks and supports the war that the Pakistani Taliban is waging against Pakistan’s government and military. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has to regularly churn out “Corrections for the Record” that take Pakistani media to task for carrying outrageous claims.
Now, the latest conspiracy theory to gain traction is the notion that the United States was behind the Taliban attack this month on Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who criticized the extremist group for denying girls access to education.
The purported purpose of the ruse: to make the Taliban look really bad and, thus, generate public sympathy for CIA drone strikes — and whip up support for a Pakistani army invasion of North Waziristan to rout Haqqani network militants based there.
A Taliban spokesman was quick to assert responsibility for the attack on the schoolgirl and her two classmates. Yet, the idea of U.S. involvement has spread widely, even generating its own meme on Facebook.
A photo of Obama sharing a hearty laugh with members of his staff is making the rounds, being circulated and “liked” by thousands on social media sites. Its caption reads: “Sir, they still believe that Taliban attacked Malala.”
To many Pakistanis, Yousafzai is a national hero. But others say she is a spy because she once met with then-U.S. envoy Richard C. Holbrooke — another photo shared on the Internet.
Part of the reason there’s so much conspiracy thinking is because Pakistanis live in a security state that many believe is controlled by the shadowy spy apparatus known as the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI. It is widely seen — and feared — as a hidden force capable of steering domestic and foreign affairs.
A.Z. Hilali, chairman of the political science department at the University of Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan, said politics is also behind much of the conspiracy mongering.
“When the incident happened with Malala Yousafzai, the people thought the security establishment might be involved because there is pressure from the U.S. that they have to take action against the Haqqani network,” Hilali said. “That perception was already existing in Pakistan. Right-wing parties just exploited the situation.”
But now, Hilali said, “right-wing parties are in a great crisis because Malala has deep sympathies from the common people. . . . They believe the Taliban has crossed a boundary. Malala has become this symbol, and the right wing is losing support.”
Nasreen Ghufran, an international-relations professor at the university, said a common sentiment in Peshawar is that the horrendous deed had to serve other agendas. “They think that Taliban on their own would not do anything unless the ISI and the army is behind it,” she said.
There was good reason to think that the United States was pushing for an operation in North Waziristan. In August, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Pakistan’s military leaders “had developed plans to go into Waziristan. . . . Our understanding is that, hopefully, they’re going to take that step in the near future.”
Pakistan denied it, saying its military lacked the necessary manpower.
As for the theories that besmirch Yousafzai as an agent of the West, they will ultimately come to naught and even enhance her stature, Hilali said. The Islamists “were already against that girl, but there is not just one Malala, there are many Malalas.”

E-mails detail Benghazi attack was terrorism - doesn't bode well for Obama


 It was six weeks ago on Tuesday that terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Now, the media  has obtained email alerts that were leaked by the State Department detailing  the attack as it  unfolded. 

Four Americans were killed in the attack, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. These emails contain the earliest description so far of what happened at Benghazi the night of the attack.

 At 4:05 p.m. Eastern time, on September 11, an alert from the State Department Operations Center was issued to a number government and intelligence agencies. Included were the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI. "US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack" -- "approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven."

 At 4:54 p.m., less than an hour later, another alert: "the firing... in Benghazi...has stopped...A response team is on site attempting to locate COM (embassy) personnel."

 Then, at 6:07 p.m., State sent out another alert saying the embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group "Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack"... "on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli."

 The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.

One of the e-mails -- sent from a State Department address to various government agencies -- specifically identifies Ansar al-Sharia as claiming responsibility for the attack on its Facebook page and on Twitter.

The e-mails raise further questions about the seeming confusion on the part of the Obama administration to determine the nature of the September attack and those who planned it.

The attack left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

on September 13, a senior U.S. official told CNN that the violence in Libya was not the work of "an innocent mob."

"The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned military-type attack," the official said.

But it wasn't until September 19 that the administration began to call the attack the work of terrorists.

The e-mails provide additional insight into the Benghazi attack.

The first one, sent at 4:05 p.m. ET, or 10:05 p.m. in Libya, describes a diplomatic mission under attack.

The subject line reads: "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack."

The email says: "Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.

The Facebook claim of involvement was subsequently denied by the group at a news conference in the following days, but not very convincingly.

"We are saluting our people for this zeal in protecting their religion, to grant victory to the prophet," a spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia said at the time. "The response has to be firm."

Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film.

While officials did mention the possible involvement of "extremists," they did not lay blame on any specific militant groups or possible links to al Qaeda or its affiliates until intelligence officials publicly alleged that on September 28.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Feds foil plot to blow up Federal Reserve

NYTIMES: Federal prosecutors on Wednesday accused a 21-year-old Bangladeshi man of conspiring to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, saying that he tried to detonate what he believed was a 1,000-pound bomb in a van he parked outside the building in Lower Manhattan.

But the entire plot, which began after the man, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, came to the United States in January, unfolded under the surveillance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department as part of an elaborate sting operation, according to court papers.

Mr. Nafis told an F.B.I. informer in July that he had overseas connections to Al Qaeda, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday afternoon in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
Mr. Nafis, the complaint said, had been trying to recruit people to form a terrorist cell and sought out Qaeda contacts to help him carry out an attack. One of the people he tried to recruit was the F.B.I. informer, who later introduced him to an F.B.I. undercover agent, according to the complaint.
“The defendant came to this country intent on conducting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil and worked with single-minded determination to carry out his plan,” said Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, who announced the charges along with officials from the F.B.I. and the New York Police Department. “The defendant thought he was striking a blow to the American economy. He thought he was directing confederates and fellow believers. At every turn, he was wrong, and his extensive efforts to strike at the heart of the nation’s financial system were foiled by effective law enforcement.”
Mr. Nafis was charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to Al Qaeda; he could face up to life in prison if convicted. He was expected to appear in court in Brooklyn later on Wednesday.
A lawyer for Mr. Nafis, Heidi C. Cesare, could not be reached immediately after his arrest.
“Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure,” said Mary Galligan, the acting assistant director of the F.B.I. office in New York. “It is important to emphasize that the public was never at risk in this case, because two of the defendant’s ‘accomplices’ were actually an F.B.I. source and an F.B.I. undercover agent.”
The undercover agent supplied Mr. Nafis with what Mr. Nafis believed to be 20 50-pound bags of explosives, but which were, in fact, inert, according to the complaint. Mr. Nafis bought components for the bomb’s detonator and surveyed the target in Lower Manhattan on a number of occasions, the complaint said. He repeatedly told the undercover agent that the plan was his own and that he had come to the United States to carry it out.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Nafis met the undercover agent and drove to a warehouse where Mr. Nafis put together what he believed to be the 1,000-pound bomb, using the 20 bags of an unnamed explosive.
On the way to the warehouse, Mr. Nafis told the agent that he had a “Plan B” — a suicide bombing — in the event that his primary plan to bomb the bank was interrupted by the authorities.
After Mr. Nafis assembled the bomb, the two men drove to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, on Maiden Lane and William Street in Lower Manhattan, about two blocks from Wall Street. Mr. Nafis, the complaint said, armed the device while they were en route to the bank, a 22-story building that resembles an impregnable fortress.
Mr. Nafis and the undercover agent parked the van outside the bank and walked to a nearby hotel, where Mr. Nafis recorded a video statement addressed to the American people that he planned to distribute after the attack. In the statement, he said, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.”
Then he tried over and over again to detonate the bomb to no avail, and agents arrested him.
The plot is the latest to fit a model in which, in the process of flushing out people they believe present a risk of committing terrorist acts, federal law enforcement officials have played the role of terrorist enabler — providing targets with encouragement, guidance, money and even, the subjects of sting operations are led to believe, the materials needed to carry out an attack. Though these operations have almost always held up in court, they have come under increasing criticism from those who believe that many of the targets, even some of those who openly espoused violence, would have been unable to execute such plots without substantial assistance from the government.
Both F.B.I. leaders and federal prosecutors have defended the approach as valuable in finding and stopping people predisposed to commit terrorism.

Shocking video of Syrian chopper shoot down

Sobering video shows a Syrian Mil Mi-8/17 "HIP" gunship helicopter spiraling toward the ground and exploding in mid-air after being hit at medium/high altitude on a mission near Idlib on Oct. 17.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

White House was warned of growing Benghazi threat

Reuters) - In the months before the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies warned the White House and State Department repeatedly that the region was becoming an increasingly dangerous vortex for jihadist groups loosely linked or sympathetic to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.
Despite those warnings, and bold public displays by Islamist militants around Benghazi, embassies in the region were advised to project a sense of calm and normalcy in the run-up to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
So brazen was the Islamist presence in the Benghazi area that militants convened what they billed as the "First Annual Conference of Supporters of Shariah (Islamic law)" in the city in early June, promoting the event on Islamist websites.
Pictures from the conference posted on various Internet forums featured convoys flying al Qaeda banners, said Josh Lefkowitz of Flashpoint-Intel.com, a firm that monitors militant websites. Video clips showed vehicles with mounted artillery pieces, he added.
A research report prepared for a Pentagon counter-terrorism unit in August said the Benghazi conference brought together representatives of at least 15 Islamist militias. Among the paper's conclusions: these groups "probably make up the bulk of al Qaeda's network in Libya."
Drawing on multiple public sources, the Library of Congress researchers who drafted the paper also concluded that al Qaeda had used the "lack of security" in Libya to establish training camps there. It also reported that "hundreds of Islamic militants are in and around Derna," where special camps provided recruits with "weapons and physical training."
President Barack Obama's administration has repeatedly said it had no specific advance warning of an attack like the one that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on the night of September 11.
But the reports of militants' growing clout in eastern Libya, and attempts by violent jihadists to take advantage of fragile new governments across northern Africa following the Arab Spring, appear to raise new questions about whether U.S. embassies took proper security precautions, and if not, why not.
Washington has not definitively placed responsibility for the Benghazi attack on specific individuals or groups among the jihadist factions believed to be operating in or near Libya.
But U.S. officials have said that within hours of the Benghazi attacks, information from communications intercepts and U.S. informants indicated members of at least two groups may have been involved.
One is an al Qaeda offshoot, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM, which was founded in Algeria and has region-wide ambitions. The other is a local militant faction called Ansar al-Sharia, which apparently has arms both in Benghazi and in Derna, long a hotbed of radicalism.
Like other militants seeking to take advantage of democratic openings and fragile governments created in last year's Arab Spring, the two groups are apparently seeking to exploit instability in Libya after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The links between these groups, other jihadist organizations and the original core al Qaeda militant group founded by the late Osama bin Laden are murky at best, U.S. officials and private analysts say.
"There is a complex mosaic of extremist groups in North Africa," a U.S. counterterrorism official said. "Given AQIM's interest in expanding its reach, it's not surprising that the group is trying to gain a foothold in Libya."
While hardly sweeping the continent, violent extremist groups appear to have found ungoverned safe havens across north Africa, from Mali in the west to Egypt's Sinai in the east.
In the last month, U.S. embassies in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have also witnessed violent attacks.
Questions have been raised about security precautions at diplomatic facilities in those countries as well.


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