Saturday, December 21, 2013

MV-22 Osprey comes under fire in Sudan

UBA, South Sudan (AFP) - US aircraft flown into South Sudan to help with evacuation efforts on Saturday, Dec 21, 2013, came under fire, wounding four US servicemen, officials said, as fighting in the country escalated.
Three US military Osprey aircraft were hit as they headed to Bor, a rebel-held city in Jonglei state, US officials said.
"The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a US Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment," an updated Pentagon statement said.
"All four service members were treated and are in stable condition." The targeted aircraft was possibly a Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fired Nuke Commander went on drinking binge/misconduct while in Russia

WASHINGTON - The Air Force general who was fired from command of U.S. land-based nuclear missile forces had engaged in "inappropriate behaviour" while on official business in Russia last summer, including heavy drinking, rudeness to his hosts and associating with "suspect" women, according to an investigation report released Thursday.

The events that led to the dismissal took place while Maj. Gen. Michael Carey was in Russia in July as head of a U.S. government delegation to a nuclear security training exercise. At the time, he was commander of the 20th Air Force, responsible for all 450 of the Air Force's Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles stationed in five U.S. states.

When Carey was relieved of command in October, the Air Force said he had engaged in unspecified misbehaviour while on a business trip, but it did not say the episode was in Russia, nor did it indicate the specific allegations against him.

Carey's firing was one of several setbacks for the nuclear force this year. The Associated Press has documented serious security lapses and complaints of low morale and "rot" within the force, as well as an independent assessment of "burnout" among a sampling of nuclear missile launch officers and security forces.

After the Russia trip, a member of the delegation lodged a complaint about Carey's behaviour. That person, described as a female staff member in the Office of the Secretary of Defence, asserted to investigators that on the delegation's first night in Moscow, July 15, Carey was drinking and speaking loudly in a hotel lounge about how he is "saving the world" and that his forces suffer from low morale.

The investigators said Carey, whom they interviewed at length on Sept. 4, seemed to forget substantial portions of what happened in Russia. The report also said that at times he clammed up or gave testimony at odds with others in the delegation.

"Maj. Gen. Carey was generally less credible than the other witnesses," the report said, adding that at times he was flippant and refused to answer certain questions.

"Gen. Carey either had a poor recall of significant events, perhaps due to his alcohol consumption, or was untruthful during the interview," the report said.

After interviews with seven delegation members, the investigators concluded that Carey "engaged in inappropriate behaviour" that amounted to "conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman," as defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In response to the investigators' report, Carey received what the Air Force calls a "letter of counselling." That's a form of discipline for noncriminal misbehaviour.

In response to an AP request, the Air Force said Carey was not commenting on the investigation report.

After he was relieved of duty in October, Carey was reassigned as special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command, where he has no responsibility for nuclear weapons. He remains in that post.

The Air Force has commented only once about the Carey case since his firing was announced Oct. 11. In mid-November, the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, told a group of reporters that Carey had stumbled in a way that could not be tolerated, despite Carey's long career and his record of accomplishment.

Welsh said Carey told him, "I've embarrassed myself, my Air Force, I'm sorry.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Breaking: NASA orders series of urgent spacewalks

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA has ordered up a series of urgent spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line at the International Space Station.

Station managers decided Tuesday to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible to replace a pump with a bad valve. It's a major job that will require three spacewalks — Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday on Christmas Day.

"The next week will be busy with space walks so not much tweeting from here," NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio tweeted from space soon after the decision was announced.

The spacewalks are taking priority over the launch of a supply ship from Virginia. The commercial delivery had been scheduled for this week, but is now delayed until at least mid-January.

Half of the station's cooling system shut down last Wednesday, forcing the six-man crew to turn off all nonessential equipment, including some science experiments. Because of the valve failure, one of the two cooling lines became too cold.

The space station cooling system, which runs ammonia through the lines, is critical for dispelling heat generated by on-board equipment.

While the astronauts are safe and comfortable, NASA wants the system back up to full strength, in case of another failure that could leave the orbiting outpost even more vulnerable than it is right now.

NATO Black Hawk crashes - attacked by militants - six killed.

NBC NEWS: KABUL - Six U.S. soldiers serving with the NATO International Security Assistance Force were killed when their Sikorsky UH-60 'Black Hawk' helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, NATO said in a statement, but a senior U.S. defense official said the aircraft had a hard landing due to mechanical problems and was attacked by militants after it went down.

NATO did not disclose the nationalities of the victims but the U.S. official said they were American.

There were no reports of enemy fire in the area the when helicopter went down, the NATO statement added.

The helicopter crashed in the Shahjoi district of the Zabul province, according to its deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Federal Judge rules NSA phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional, Politico reports.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said that the agency's controversial program, first unveiled by former government contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year, appears to violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which states that the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” Leon wrote in the ruling.

The federal ruling came down after activist Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit in June over the program. The suit claimed that the NSA's surveillance “violates the U.S. Constitution and also federal laws, including, but not limited to, the outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the due process rights of American citizens."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Breaking: Kim Jon -un executes his uncle.

BBC: The once-powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been executed after being purged for corruption, state news agency KCNA reports.

Chang Song-thaek was dramatically removed from a Communist Party session by armed guards earlier this week.

He was accused of forming factions against the state, corruption and "depraved" acts such as womanising and drug abuse.

It was the biggest upheaval since Mr Kim succeeded his father two years ago.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NASA - "serious" cooling problem on ISS may necessitate space walk

The International Space Station has experienced a "serious" problem with its cooling system, NASA said.

A problem with one of the International Space Station's cooling systems may require a repair spacewalk, NASA told announced Wednesday.

The situation doesn't represent a life-threatening emergency, but it has required a cutback in normal operations on the orbiting outpost, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said.

One of the station's two cooling loops, known as Loop-A, shut down due to an anomalous temperature imbalance on Wednesday, Byerly told NBC News. That forced NASA to reroute coolant systems onto Loop-B. As a result, the station's six-person crew has to prioritize life support systems, electrical systems and science experiments — including the freezers that preserve samples. Some non-critical systems were shut down, Byerly said, but external electrical equipment is still working fine.

"The crew was never in any danger," Byerly said. "They worked to keep the freezers going. ... They're fine for the near future."

Byerly said engineers think the problem was caused by a malfunctioning flow control valve for the station's ammonia coolant. Mission managers are trying to determine whether a software fix can get the valve working again, or whether a spacewalk will be required. Sorting through the issues might take a couple days, or as much as a couple of weeks.

U.S. spacewalks were suspended after Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano's spacesuit filled with water during a July outing, but Russian spacewalks have proceeded without problems.

Check back for more about this developing story.

WASHTIMES: PANETTA source of Zero Dark Thirty leak

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WASHINGTON TIMES: Freedom of Information request filed by government watchdog Judicial Watch revealed that former CIA Director Leon E. Panetta was the source who gave up secret information to the scriptwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Hollywood movie about the raid on Osama bin Laden.

Judicial Watch said in an email that Mr. Panetta revealed the classified information during an awards ceremony on June 24, 2011, to mark the administration’s assault on Osama bin Laden. Mr. Panetta was giving a speech at the ceremony, during which he concluded: “You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.”

Hollywood’s Mark Boal, who produced “Zero Dark Thirty,” was at this awards ceremony. According to internal documents from the CIA received by Judicial Watch as part of the group’s FOIA request, Mr. Panetta’s entire speech was classified “Top Secret.” And Mr. Panetta shouldn’t have spoken those words in front of Mr. Boal, who didn’t have a top security clearance, Judicial Watch reported.

Mr. Panetta said he didn’t know Mr. Boal was in the audience during his speech and assumed all those who were at the ceremony had the proper security clearances, Judicial Watch reported.

The most egregious part of the intelligence slip was that Mr. Panetta “specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name,” a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report stated, Judicial Watch reported.

And the leak caused some consternation on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, accused the CIA of being “very sloppy” and called the administration “very sloppy in enforcing security procedures when it came to Hollywood. It almost seems as if they were star-struck.”

Judicial Watch said it received about 200 pages as part of its FOIA request to the CIA

Read more:
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Web coalition works to reform NSA surveillance programs

ABC GO: A coalition of eight technology companies including Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have launched a campaign to reform government surveillance programs, pushing back on perceptions that these companies voluntarily hand over widespread access to users’ private data.
Launched this morning, the website, outlines several principles the companies are seeking.
“The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution,” the group wrote in a letter to President Obama and members of Congress. “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”
“It’s time for a change.”
The five principles include limiting government’s authority to collect user information, greater oversight over the process of requesting this information, increased transparency about government requests, allowing data to move across borders freely, and establishing a framework to prevent conflicts among governments.
Additional partners in the effort include AOL, Apple, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Twitter.
The CEOs of Google and Facebook have been particularly aggressive in pushing back against the perception that their companies have given the government a “back door” into the personal information of their users.
“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information,” wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right.”
The tactical offensive on the part of these companies comes after revelations about the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs have continued months after the most explosive ones were revealed in documents leaked by a former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Since then, Obama has said that he will move to reform parts of the NSA’s activities, even while insisting that the programs are operating within the law and by and large without abuses.
“NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people’s emails, not listening to their — the contents of their phone calls,” Obama told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in an interview last week.
His statement on the subject has largely remained the same since the revelations first emerged.
“But I want everybody to be clear: The people at the NSA generally are looking out for the safety of the American people,” Obama continued. “They are not interested in reading your emails.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

AQAP claims responsibility for Yemen Defense Ministry Attack

BBC: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has said it was behind an attack on Yemen's defence ministry on Thursday that left 52 people dead.
The group's media arm, al-Malahim, said the ministry complex in Sanaa had been targeted because US unmanned drones were being operated from there.
The attack saw a suicide bomber ram an explosives-filled car into the main gate before gunmen launched an assault.
Among the dead were soldiers and civilians, including seven foreigners.
It was the deadliest attack in Sanaa since May 2012, when a suicide bomber blew himself up during a rehearsal for a military parade.
'Heavy blow'
Thursday's attack in the Bab al-Yaman district, on the edge of Sanaa's old city, began at about 09:00 (06:00 GMT) with a huge car bomb explosion at the entrance to the defence ministry's command complex, one of the government's most important security facilities.
About a dozen militants then stormed the compound, targeting civilians working at a military hospital inside or receiving treatment there.
The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil describes "plumes of smoke and gunfire" at the scene
Two doctors from Germany, two others from Vietnam, as well as two nurses from the Philippines and one nurse from India were among those killed, the official Saba news agency reported.
The Philippine foreign ministry said seven of its nationals had died.
Other civilian victims included a top Yemeni judge and his wife, and one of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi's relatives.
Security forces later retook the complex after killing the attackers.

Aviation Week & Space Technology: Unmasking the new stealthy RQ-180

Unmasking the RQ-180
Posted by Jen DiMascio 7:16 AM on Dec 06, 2013 

The Air Force has long debated how to conduct penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions since the venerable, high-speed SR-71 retired in 1998. But despite the need and a lingering requirement, no visible progress toward that goal was made. That’s because the highly classified aircraft – the RQ-180 – has been developed by Northrop Grumman in secret.

blog post photo
click here
In the Dec. 9 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Senior Pentagon Editor Amy Butler and Senior International Defense Editor Bill Sweetman (this week celebrating his 40th year as an aviation journalist) reveal the existence of the black-world aircraft now flying at Area 51,

Amy and Bill’s report is accompanied by both an interactive timeline and a family tree, highlighting the evolution of U.S. stealth UASs.

They explain in an additional story how the new UAS fits within the context of the Air Force’s plans for a future family of aircraft capable of conducting intelligence and strike missions.

Also, don’t miss Bill’s opinion column, ‘Commander’s Intent’ from earlier this year, explaining why UAVs need stealth, and why secrecy can be counter-productive

Thursday, December 5, 2013

US Navy launches drone from sub

NBC: The U.S. Navy says it has successfully launched a drone from a submerged submarine, another big step toward developing new military spying and reconnaissance capabilities.

In a press release, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory said the fuel-cell-powered "XFC" unmanned aircraft was fired from the torpedo tube of the USS Providence using a launch system known as Sea Robin.

The launch system was designed to fit within an empty canister used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles. Once ejected from the canister, the launch vehicle with the drone rose to the ocean surface; the drone's wings then unfolded and the vehicle took vertical flight for several hours.

The XFC drone streamed live video back to the Providence, support vessels and Navy officials before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas.

The Navy released a time-lapse photo taken of the underwater launch but didn’t reveal exactly where — or when — the operation took place.

The sub launch came after nearly six years of development. The project received funding from SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office.

"Developing disruptive technologies and quickly getting them into the hands of our sailors is what our SwampWorks program is all about," said Craig A. Hughes, acting director of innovation at ONR.

The Navy said the successful launch of a remotely deployed drone ”offers a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to the U.S. Navy's submarine force.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alert: Truck carrying radioactive cobalt stolen in Mexico

Compiled from various sources:

A truck carrying "extremely dangerous" material used in medical treatment has been stolen in Mexico, officials said.

The truck was transporting cobalt-60 from a hospital in the northern city of Tijuana to a radioactive waste storage facility when it was stolen in Tepojaco near Mexico City Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement. Cobalt-60 is a radioactive isotope and was being used in radiotherapy.

Mexican authorities are conducting a search for the material and have issued a statement to alert the public, the IAEA said.

The truck is a white Volkswagen Worker with license plate 726-DT-8, Mexico's National Commission for Nuclear Security and Safeguards said.

"At the time the truck was stolen, the source was properly shielded. However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged," the IAEA said in the statement.

There was no indication from officials that the truck was headed for the U.S.

U.S. law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security officials are aware of the theft and working closely with Mexican authorities, a U.S. official briefed on the situation told ABC News.

Border officials armed with radiation detection devices have been alerted. It is unclear who stole the material and if they know what they have, the official said.

Cobalt-60, which is primarily used in medical treatments, cannot be utilized in a conventional nuclear weapon; however, it could be added to a "dirty bomb." Such a device could potentially spread the radioactive material over a wide area.

An official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the agency was in close communication with authorities south of the border and "will continue to closely monitor this situation."

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has stepped up calls on member states to tighten security to prevent nuclear and radioactive materials from falling into the wrong hands, made no mention of any such risk in its statement on Wednesday.

The IAEA also did not give details on how much radioactive material was in the vehicle when it was seized. Inside a teletherapy device, cobalt-60 is used to treat cancer.

"At the time the truck was stolen, the (radioactive) source was properly shielded. However, the source could be extremely dangerous to a person if removed from the shielding, or if it was damaged," the IAEA said in a statement.

The IAEA has offered to assist Mexican authorities in the search.

Cobalt-60, the most common radioactive isotope of the metal, has many applications in industry and in radiotherapy in hospitals. It is also used for industrial radiography to detect structural flaws in metal parts, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2000, three people died in Thailand after a cobalt-60 teletherapy unit was sold as scrap metal and ended up on a junkyard. About 1,870 people living nearby were exposed to "some elevated level of radiation," according to an IAEA publication.

About the same time in Mexico, homes built with metal rods that had been contaminated by stolen cobalt were destroyed, a spokesman for the attorney general's office said.

"Cobalt-60 has figured in several serious accidents, some of them fatal," said nuclear expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank. "If dispersed, cobalt-60 or other radioactive source material could cause radiation poisoning locally."

More than 100 incidents of thefts and other unauthorised activities involving nuclear and radioactive material are reported to the IAEA annually, the U.N. agency said this year.

It is rare, however, that it makes any such incident public.

Because radioactive material is regarded as less hard to find and the device easier to make, experts say a dirty bomb is a more likely threat than a nuclear bomb in a terrorist attack.

Experts say a dirty bomb carries more potential to terrorise than cause a large loss of life.

At a nuclear security summit in 2012, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano specifically singled out cobalt-60 among radioactive sources that could be used for such bombs.

"A dirty bomb detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences," Amano said, according to a copy of his speech.

(Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Vienna and David Alire Garcia and Alexandra Alper in Mexico City; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Simon Gardner, Doina Chiacu andMohammad Zargham)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Breaking: Power shake-up in North Korea - Uncle dismissed - aids executed.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s spy agency believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s powerful uncle may have been dismissed from his posts last month and that two of his aides were executed, two lawmakers said Tuesday.
The lawmakers said they were told by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service that Jang Song Thaek has not been seen publicly since then, indicating he may have been fired.
There was no official word from North Korea on Jang’s fate, and it was not possible to independently confirm the claim.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber Monday Deal: The Interceptors Club at a great price

Somewhere in the wilds of New Mexico, at a secret air base, they have built the ultimate unmanned stealth warplane.

It embodies artificial intelligence.

It is invisible on radar.

It can fly rings around any fighter jet.

It can fly above Mach 6.

It is armed with exotic pulse-weaponry...

... and it has just been stolen by a 15 year-old boy.

That's the premise behind my novel, The Interceptors Club and the Secret of The Black Manta, a work of fiction, loosely based on my many years of actual experience "stealth chasing" for publications such as Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine, Popular Science and Aircraft Illustrated.

From young readers and adults, no matter your age, you will like The Interceptors Club & the Secret of the Black Manta.

It is a fun, intriguing and wild trip into the Black World where five teenage hackers go toe-to-toe with real spies, playing by adult rules.

From page one, you’ll be immersed in a shadow-world that exists secretly, right alongside this one, filled with dark sinister characters, stealth technology and hidden radio-waves that carry on them secret messages for espionage agents hiding in plain sight.

The Interceptors Club & the Secret of the Black Manta is a character-driven, techno-thriller for our times.

It’s also a great book for sons and their dads.

No vampires or witches- but a cool-techie-tale - intended to get young men reading again.

Think - Bourne Identity meets Sneakers -Hardy Boys meets Real Genius - Tom Clancymeets Wargames -and you’ll get The Interceptors Club and the Secret of The Black Manta!

I hope you’ll consider purchasing my e-book!
“The Interceptors and the Secret of the Black Mantra has a story line more like reality than fiction. Personally I never read fiction novels. But of course it's targeted toward a younger generation.

                                                                                                                                        -Steve Douglass


I think it would be a good motivator for up and coming engineering / aviation types. The realistic Black World "lingo" is refreshing. If I had this book when I was in the 8th grade, that would have been "Way Cool". - Dan Freeman

Review by: Phil Patton: "This is a thriller with a human side. It is all about secrecy and the mystery of technology and the sinister and the innocent. I would compare it to another novel that might come as a surprise: To Kill A Mockingbird.

Why? Because both books take on deep and important issues through the eyes of kids. In TKAM it is race, here it is the nature of knowledge and suspicion.

As someone who has seen government and organizations at work, I sense truth and insight here. Highly recommended. Many stars!

Just finished reading the book, started this morning and couldn't stop. The book is a very interesting read with some useful technical points about Stealth and how it has evolved. It still has an "Iron Eagle meets Stealth" feel to it. I enjoyed it, the story has more technical accuracies than Iron Eagle.

The Black Projects structure and procedure depicted is a believable concept but who knows? Every project is different with different goals.

It kept me interested. And I agree or enemies should very much consider the capability of our military before they shake a stick at us.

I'm a former F-117A mechanic and I enjoy all books related to Stealth.

- Don Shoemer


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