Monday, April 23, 2012

Researchers: dirty bomb most likely method of next terrorist attack ...

HUFF POST: If Los Angeles were to fall victim to a terrorist attack, one of the most likely methods would be a "dirty bomb," USC researcher Adam Rose told The Huffington Post.
A dirty bomb creates a small explosion that distributes radiation for about a square mile. It is a likely terrorist weapon because it is small enough to fit in a briefcase and because the idea of radiation frightens people.
That fear, in fact, could last for a decade and would cost the city 15 times more than immediate costs, according to a new study by USC and the National Science Foundation.
While previous disaster studies have focused on the initial costs of injuries, cleanup and business closures, this study focused on the psychological effects of an attack, Rose told HuffPost. "Nobody had done that before. And it turned out to be huge," said Rose, who has published economic estimates of the 9/11 attacks and the Northridge Earthquake.
Researchers surveyed 625 people nationwide after showing them a mock newspaper article and newscasts about a hypothetical dirty bomb attack on downtown LA's financial district. One of the mock newspaper articles used can be seen below.
The study found that, after six months, 41 percent of those surveyed would still not consider shopping or dining in the city's financial district. And, on average, employees would demand a 25 percent increase in wages to return to their jobs.
While the initial costs of such an attack would total just over $1 billion, the cost of the effects of the stigma on the area shoots the estimated total up to $16 billion.
However, the psychological costs could be cut nearly in half if policymakers communicate exactly what they're doing at every stage of the clean-up process, Rose said. The study's authors are presenting the study and communication tactics to local, state and federal policymakers.
In addition to LA's financial district, other potential targets could include LA Live and LAX, Rose said.
In regards to the probability of a dirty bomb or other type of terrorist attack on LA, study co-author William Burns told HuffPost, "The probability of different kinds of attacks are not known. The only people who would have any insight about that would be the Department of Homeland Security and that would be highly protected information." However, he did point to the department's list of likely types of attacks.
The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is part of a special issue of the international journal "Risk Analysis" which showcases USC CREATE’s research of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and their economic impacts.

Pentagon okays new spy operations unit.

The Pentagon is planning to ramp up its spying operations against high-priority targets such as Iran under an intelligence reorganization approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, a senior defense official said Monday. 
The defense official said the plan was developed in response to a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence that concluded that the military’s espionage efforts needed to be more focused on major targets outside war zones.

The new service will seek to “make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss what he described as a “realignment” of the military’s human espionage efforts.
The official declined to provide details on where such shifts might occur, but the nation’s most pressing intelligence priorities in recent years have included counterterrorism, nonproliferation and ascendant powers such as China.
The realignment is expected to affect several hundred military operatives who already work in spying assignments abroad, mostly as case officers for the Defense Intelligence Agency, which serves as the Pentagon’s main source of human intelligence and analysis.
The official said that the size of the new service is expected to grow “from several hundred to several more hundred” in the coming years. Despite the potentially provocative name for the new service, the official played down concerns that the Pentagon was seeking to usurp the role of the CIA or its National Clandestine Service.
This “does not involve new manpower ... does not involve new authorities,” the official said. Instead, the official said that the DIA is shifting its emphasis “as we look to come out of war zones and anticipate the requirements over the next several years.”
Congressional officials said they were seeking more details about the plan. “My question is why? What’s missing and what’s going on?” said a senior Senate aide who had been given a preliminary briefing on the new service.
The plan was unveiled about a week after a senior U.S. Army officer with extensive experience in special operations and counter-insurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was nominated to serve as the next chief of the DIA.
While serving in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn published a harsh critique of intelligence operations in that country, faulting collectors for being too focused on tactical threats and failing to understand the broader demographic and political context of the battlefield.
About 15 percent of the DIA’s case officers will be part of the Defense Clandestine Service, the defense official said. New, more clearly delineated career paths will give DIA case officers better opportunities to continue their espionage assignments abroad.
The new service fits into a broader convergence trend. U.S. Special Operations forces are increasingly engaged in intelligence collection overseas, and have collaborated with the CIA on missions ranging from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan to ongoing drone strikes in Yemen.
The blurring is also evident in the organizations’ upper ranks. Panetta previously served as CIA director, and that post is currently held by former four-star U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.
A key architect of the Defense Clandestine Service is Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, who formerly served in the CIA.

Iran claims to be building copy of US stealth drone ...

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran claimed Sunday that it had recovered data from an American spy drone that went down in Iran last year, including information that the aircraft was used to spy on Osama bin Laden weeks before he was killed. Iran also said it was building a copy of the drone.
Similar unmanned surveillance planes have been used in Afghanistan for years and kept watch on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. But U.S. officials have said little about the history of the particular aircraft now in Iran's possession.
Tehran, which has also been known to exaggerate its military and technological prowess, says it brought down the RQ-170 Sentinel, a top-secret drone equipped with stealth technology, and has flaunted the capture as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States.
The U.S. says the drone malfunctioned and downplayed any suggestion that Iran could mine the aircraft for sensitive information because of measures taken to limit the intelligence value of drones operating over hostile territory.
The drone went down in December in eastern Iran and was recovered by Iran almost completely intact. After initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities.
Washington has asked for it back, a request Iran rejected.
The chief of the aerospace division of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, told state television that the captured drone is a "national asset" for Iran and that he could not reveal full technical details.
But he did provide some samples of the data that he claimed Iranian experts had recovered from the aircraft, state television reported.
"There is almost no part hidden to us in this aircraft. We recovered part of the data that had been erased. There were many codes and characters. But we deciphered them by the grace of God," Hajizadeh said.
Among the drone's past missions, he said, was surveillance of the compound in northwest Pakistan where bin Laden lived. Hajizadeh claimed the drone flew over bin Laden's compound two weeks before the al-Qaida leader was killed there in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.
He also listed tests and maintenance that the drone had undergone, all of which, he said, had been recorded in the aircraft's memory. According to Hajizadeh, the drone was taken to California on Oct. 16, 2010, for "technical work" and then to Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Nov. 18, 2010.
He said it carried out flights from Afghanistan but ran into some problems that U.S. experts were unable to fix. Then the drone was taken in December 2010 to Los Angeles, where the aircraft's sensors underwent testing, Hajizadeh said.
"If we had not achieved access to software and hardware of this aircraft, we would be unable to get these details. Our experts are fully dominant over sections and programs of this plane," he said.
Hajizadeh said he provided the details to prove to the Americans "how far we've penetrated into this aircraft."
The U.S. Defence Department said it does not discuss intelligence matters and would not comment on the Iranian claims.
The semiofficial Mehr news agency said Iran had reverse-engineered the aircraft and has begun using that knowledge to build a copy of the drone.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he views the reports with skepticism.
"There is a history here of Iranian bluster, particularly, now when they are on the defensive because of the economic sanctions against them."
He acknowledged that it was "not good for the U.S. when the drone went down in Iran and not good when the Iranians grabbed it." But the senator said he did not "have confidence at this point that they are really able to make a copy of it."
Iran has gone a long way in reverse-engineering some key technologies in the past three decades, particularly in the areas of nuclear and missile technology.
Iran's famous Shahab-3 missile, first displayed in 1998, is believed to be based on North Korea's Nodong-1 design. Iran obtained its first centrifuge from Pakistan in 1986 and later reverse-engineered it to develop its now advanced uranium-enrichment program.
Centrifuges, which purify uranium gas, are the central component of a process that can make fuel for power plants or — at higher levels of processing — weapons.
However, unlike the situation with the drone, the Iranian government usually touts these achievements as the result of an indigenous, home-grown research.
One area where there is concern is whether Iran or other states could reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the drone's radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft's sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.
How much data there is on the drone is another question. Some surveillance technologies allow video to stream through to operators on the ground but do not store much collected data. If they do, it is encrypted.
Media reports claimed this week that Russia and China have asked Tehran to provide them with information on the drone, but Iran's Defence Ministry denied that.

Read it on Global News: Global Edmonton | Iran says it recovered data from captured US spy drone, plans to build copy 

Fireball rattles Nevada

MARTIN GRIFFITH/RENO, Nev. (AP) - A loud explosion heard across much of Nevada and California on Sunday morning rattled homes and prompted a flood of calls to law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Sierra Nevada, some reporting fireball sightings.

 The sound and the light show were likely caused by a meteor that entered Earth's atmosphere, astronomers said. "It made the shades in my room shake hard enough to slam into the window a couple times," said Nicole Carlsen of the Reno area. "I kept looking for earthquake information, but (there was) nothing.

 I even checked the front of my house to make sure no one ran into the garage. I wish I had seen the meteor." Erin Girard-Hudson of Arnold, Calif., told The Union Democrat of Sonora, Calif., that the loud boom that occurred around 8 a.m. made her 2-year-old daughter, Elsie, cry. "It knocked me off my feet and was shaking the house," she said. "It sounded like it was next door." No damages or injuries were immediately reported.

There were no reports of earthquakes at the time. Some people reported seeing a brilliant light streak across the sky at the same time. Sightings occurred over roughly a 600-mile line across the two states, including Reno, Elko and North Las Vegas in Nevada, and the San Francisco, Sacramento and Bakersfield areas in California. Astronomers said they believe the mysterious light was a fireball, which is a very bright meteor.

It will take time to determine the path of the fireball and where it broke up, they added. "From the reports, I have no doubt it was a fireball," said Robert Lunsford of the Geneseo, N.Y.-based American Meteor Society. "It happens all the time, but most are in daytime and are missed. This one was extraordinarily bright in the daylight." Lunsford said it's "pretty rare" for fireballs to produce a loud explosion. For that to happen, he explained, the meteor must have survived intact until breaking up about five miles above Earth. Most fireballs are visible at 50 miles above Earth.

 "If you hear a sonic boom or loud explosion, that's a good indication that some fragments may have reached the ground," Lunsford told The Associated Press. "We'll have to get some people to work on it to pinpoint where it broke up and see if anything can be found on the ground." Lunsford said more than 20 people in the two states had filed reports with his group by midmorning about seeing the fireball. "I have been looking at the sky for 30 years, and I have never witnessed something so amazing and puzzling. It is an event that makes you glad to be alive," said Matthew Neal of San Francisco. "The main body was bright green and the head was bright red and white."



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