Friday, December 2, 2016

ISIS fighters could stage bigger attacks in Europe, according to Interpol intel; Mattis is probably a better pick particularly for Trump

Media outlets are reporting disturbing intelligence from Europe that returning ISIS fighter could mount larger attacks, including car bombs, chemical attacks, and personal kidnappings.  NBCNews has a typical story here. Executives, of course, are used to this kind of risk and have extra security, but returning fighters could make a combative political point by going after "ordinary people".  The risk would be much less in the United States (Pulse and Santa Barbara notwithstanding).

Fred Kaplan of Slate has a balanced article on Trump's appointment of Marine Corps general "Mad Dog" Mattis as future Secretary of Defense.  There is criticism that Trump is relying too much on the military for policymaking.  But I think here, Trump needs a general there because Trump has no experience himself with "the draft".  (Well, he got out of it.)  Maddis is actually against torture and believes in following the UCMJ and Geneva Convention by the book.  He also is, relatively speaking, more focused on Iran, Russia and North Korea as opposed just to ISIS when it comes to making priorities.  Trump needs this viewpoint.  He may have a leg up even on homeland security issues like cyberwarfare.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why the US "lost" the Vietnam war

There is an important Letter to the Editor in a "Free for Fall" in the Washington Post, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, p. A13, "Why South Vietnam was defeated", here.

The letter emphasizes that the withdrawal of US military aid from 1973 on led to the downfall of the South, and eventual capitulation in 1975, even though Vietnam has recovered as a quasi-capitalist country since then.  The Domino Theory, which so affected my own life,

Our military may have won the war, but the politicians lost it.  And the war was fought with a very unequal system of conscription (there was a lottery starting in 1969).  Indeed, the disadvantaged and blacks did proportionally more sacrificing. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

North Korea could reach Washington DC with nuclear missiles within four years (CNN)

Donald Trump has attracted criticism for his blase attitude toward national security briefings, attending only two of them while Pence (the effective president?) has attended them all.

But the Obama administration has warned Trump's people about the existential danger created by North Korea. First, it's likely to do something provocative on Inauguration Day (UK story).  Furthermore, CNN said on Saturday afternoon (no story yet) that North Korea now may be able to attack South Korea and Japan with nuclear weapons, and will have a missile capable of reaching Washington DC in four years, during the Trump years. We had heard in the past that it might have a missile reaching the Pacific Northwest, or possibly the north central states through the Great Circle routes.  Would NORAD be able to stop them?  Or would an EMP blast over the US be possible?

Trump's past remarks about Kim Jong Un have been ambivalent, and a confrontation between them could be volatile indeed.

There's an important story in the New York Times about economic refugees from "Communist" Venezuela here. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Detailed story on attacks on Raqqa surfaces on Twitter

I saw a bizarre story on Raqqa in Arabic in my Twitter feed, which suggests that air strikes are happening and Kurdish fighters are involved, the link here.

The English in the Google translation was a bit muddy and hard to follow.  There is a very interesting photo of the scenery around one of the borders.

CNN has a story by Marwan Hisham on what happens to Raqqa in the future, here.

NYPD and/or FBI has arrested a Brooklyn Uber driver who had traveled to Turkey and Yemen with a recent plot involving Times Square,  The New York Daily News has the details here (from Monday).

Wikipedia attribution:
By Lazhar Neftien -, CC BY 2.0, Link

Sunday, November 20, 2016

OAN correspondent Trey Yingst reports on Aleppo in detail in live feed

OAN correspondent Trey Yingst did a live feed tonight, from Aleppo, Syria if I understood correctly, with the easiest link (20 min) in my own Facebook Timeline here.

Yingst described the decimation of medical services and infrastructure, and the idea that all anyone wants to do is eliminate "terrorists".  Most civilians have very little idea of the political forces, including Assad, Russia, ISIS, and various Islamic and other factions.

Donald Trump seems focused only on ISIS and seems to have little actual knowledge of the details of what is going on as he conducts meetings for his new staff.

I forwarded the address to WJLA7 for live viewing.

CNN has a similar story about attacks on hospitals and civilians, with no availability of medical treatment, here.

Update: Later Nov. 21

Trey Yingst has a second video now, here. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why India's "war on cash" matters

Libertarian sources are reporting heavily on India’s confiscation (or refusal to recognize as legal tender) of larger cash bills, as in this story on FEE, “India’s War onCash”. 

The government fears that people can hide income, assets and wealth from taxation with “off the books” cash transactions.  Good point.
Ultimately, it could lead to a fear that people will hoard cash (what about gold and silver) and not take any risks in investing.  They you get negative interest rates.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump may be more sympathetic to West Bank settlements, but Palestinian families would be compensated

William Booth and Ruth Eglash have an important front page story in the Washington Post, “Right-wing Israelis see opening on settlements”. The story says that a Trump administration may be more supportive of Israel with respect to settlements apparently outside of the approved zones (like Zone C) or on private lands previously owned by Palestinians.  But the article says that Palestinian families would be compensated with other land.
Vox Media recently explained how the settlements work by Zone.  The report caused some controversy among some Palestinian-supportive groups who claim that there are many illegal settlements.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Human Rights Watch notes the grim situation for LGBT in Nigeria

Human Rights watch has a scathing report on the results of the "anti-gay marriage law" in Nigeria, here. It was circulated on Facebook by Center Global today.

Despite the nomenclature stressing marriage, the law (like Russia) prohibits promotion of gay organizations or rights.  It also seems to prohibit assembling of people for homosexual encounters.  (In the US, some states like Virginia, used to have such laws.)

Nigeria has been a source of some asylum seekers, whose processing is still somewhat complicated legally and a bit of a mystery with the public, something I have covered a lot on Wordpress recently. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

NBC, CBS report separate intelligence on possible terror threats around the US presidential election next week; some threats involve the Internet and power grids

Some of the more alarming international news goes first on this blog.

NBC News, late Thursday, reported intelligence chatter that suggested threats to the Internet and power grid(s) – apparently through cyberwar – on Election Day.  I posted this on Facebook and it got reshared a lot very quickly.  NBC speculated that the DDOS on Dyn could have been a "dress rehearsal" and seemed to hint that the threats could come from Russia and Vladimir Putin. They could come from non-state actors working for Putin under the table.

But early on Friday, social media started reporting a CBS News story about NDA intercept of Al Qaeda chatter about possible attacks in New York, Texas, and Virginia (apparently including Washington DC) on Monday, within 24 hours of the election. These reports, while vague, would tend to suggest physical attacks of some kind.  It’s not clear yet if this is part of the same story NBC had reported, but it appears that the enemies are different (Russia v. radical Islam).  Al Qaeda is the older group associated with 9/11, and is not the same as ISIS.

CNN mentioned the CBS story (only) at around 11:45 AM this morning (after heavy commercials).  CNN still does not have an obvious link.

WJLA posted a story from its owner Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore, which sounded a tad more alarming.  Sinclair had reported on the EMP threat problem (rather unusual from major media companies) in July, in a report aired on WJLA briefly; but a subsequent “Your Voice Your Future” on Aug. 1 could be viewed only by streaming (from a Sinclair or Fox studio in Wisconsin) – Wordpress article.

What to make of this?  I had reviewed Ted Koppel’s book “Light’s Out” in November 2015.  The main way a cyber attack to affect the power grid would be an attack on a smaller utility or cooperative that doesn’t have as good security and that hasn’t properly separately all the power grid devices from the public Internet (as they are supposed to be).  Cascading transformer failures in a region are possible.  Some entrepeneurs (like Taylor Wilson in Nevada) have proposed solutions that could prevent this possibility altogether but would require hundreds of millions of investment.  Why doesn’t Donald Trump talk about this publicly if he wants law, order and security?

Emphasize this again: the mention of Al Qaeda raises the idea of some kind of physical attack, ranging from “infantry” (as in a 2013 attack on a substation in California) or some sort of device.  Hopefully NORAD would stop any incoming high altitude missiles launched off-shore (the scenario in the 2009 novel “One Second After”).  But localized non-nuclear EMP devices (affecting small areas) do exist, as was once discussed in the Washington Times (2009) and Popular Mechanics (2001, one week before 9/11). See posting on this blog March 4, 2010.   The mention of NY and Virginia “obviously” would bring to mind the new WTC site or the Pentagon.  Officials say that there are no specifics in the chatter as to exact targets or methods, and the credibility is still being investigated.  NYPD has its own separate means of investigating chatter.  It's unclear why Texas would appear in the chatter, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz had mentioned the EMP threat to Wolf Blitzer on CNN late March 21, 2016, hours before the Brussels attack.  No other candidate (except Newt Gingrich (GA), who had been a possible VP choice for Trump and who had written the Foreword to "One Second After" an op-ed about EMP after the 2012 derecho) has mentioned the idea openly. Hillary Clinton has mentioned power grid security as a general issue at least once.  I'd like to hear Donald Trump talk about this -- "stay on point".  Actually, I can think of a second reason why Texas is mentioned.  The Texas Interconnection is one of the three major power grids -- Texas has its own grid.  But no state in the western grid was named.

But another reason could be the Curtis Culwell Center Attack in Garland TX (near Dallas) in May 2015.

I've done my best here to "connect the dots" on what I know.  In an alternate universe, I should have had a career in intelligence.  There will surely be more coverage of this threat tonight. But could this development simply help Trump get closer? Both stories are drawing considerable attention, almost viral, from the survivalist and doomsday prepper communities on Facebook.

Update: Nov. 5

WJLA-7 in Washington has aired a short film "Cyber Hit Men for Hire" which says that Russian malware called "Black Energy" has been sitting on some US Utility servers since 2012 and can't be removed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Orlando police release Mateen's heavily politicized conversation from Pulse

Orlando police have released the audio of the conversations with Omar Mateen when he was attacking the Pulse nightclub in Orlando June 12.

CBS has the story and video here
Mateen’s comments were heavily “political” in a sense of viewing civilians (not necessarily gay or Latino) as effectively combatants in US foreign policy (especially against ISIS), a common idea in radical thinking.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bergen interviews US military commander, who warns of ISIS influence on young through social media, something Donald Trump will jump on

Peter Bergen, CNN security journalist and now professor at Arizona State, interviews General Joseph Votel of the U.S. Central Command on CNN.

While ISIS is losing territorial integrity with largely specialized operational contributions by the US forces, the danger of ISIS Internet recruiting is likely to grow, according to Votel.

A large segment of mostly younger adults and teens (often in deprived or violent backgrounds) are surprisingly vulnerable to other user-generated content from terror groups on social media.  This could lead to calls for security crackdowns on Internet publishing platforms and more restrictions on what users may do, to relieve a common threat (although most of the propaganda material comes from overseas), particularly if Donald Trump is elected.

Friday, October 28, 2016

ABC reports on why "good" kids are duped into joining ISIS; also porn found on jihadist computers

ABC news reports (Claire Weinraub et al) that honor student Muhammad Dakhlalla had thought he was helping others when he and girl friend Jacyln Young were arrested for trying to fly to Turkey to join ISIS.  They had been students in Mississippi.

He claimed he was na├»ve, and did not grasp the group’s capacity for evil.  After all, it had claimed to restore Muslim law and was helping the poor and disabled.
Another ABC story reports on the amount of violent pornography found on jihadist’s computers and devices when seized on battlefields, in complete violation of normal interpretation of Koranic law.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Russia may attack Baltics after US election, conceivably Finland; also Russia has a new EMP weapon

Russia may be building up the biggest confrontation since the Cold War, with strategic plans to recapture the Baltic countries (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) in eastern Europe, according to a Vox story here.  Estonia is interesting in that it offers “digital citizenships” to one day visitors.
Putin could test NATO with an invasion early in 2017 with a new president.  It’s hard to say if he would feel more emboldened were Trump to be elected.

But in my own “Angel’s Brother” novel, a US CIA agent travels to Russia, drives N of St Peterburg (following a route in the 1985 novel “The Red Fox” by Anthony Hyde) pretending to vend porn, to pick up a secret weapon stored near an old radioactive waste depot (a pet topic of the Nuclear Threat Initiative).  Then he drives it across the border into Finland (through the ceded area Karelia -- like the "Karelia Suite" of Jan Sibelius" -- near Lake Ladoga), and the Russians chase him, creating an international incident that will be followed by a bizarre ransomware attack on the west.  All of this is fiction.  But it is sounding like an exchange that could start WWIII, so far the province of novelist’s imaginations, could come true. (As I write this and ponder the news story, I realize I have some more loose ends in the manuscript to clean up.)

Russia is said to have unveiled a “Satan 2” nuclear missile that could destroy an area the size of France of Texas, at least with an EMP blast.  (story by Sebasitan Shukla and Laura Smith-Spark).

Wikipedia attribution link for map by Jmienenmaa , CNU 1.2

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

TISA could incorporate a Section 230-like clause; ISHR publishes model law

A couple of brief stories came across my inbox today.

EFF, in an article by Jeremy Malcolm, discussed both TPP and TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement, and argues that the US model for Section 230, protecting service providers from downstream liability for defamation and similar torts, be used as a model worldwide.     This sounds more important in Europe, especially Britain, where defendants generally have a harder time in defamation cases (as Kitty Kelly once explained back in 1997).

The International Service for Human Rights in Geneva today published a “Model Law for the Recgonition and Protection of Human Rights Defender”, pdf here

Sunday, October 23, 2016

China plans to assign every person and every company a public "social karma score" by 2020

According to a story by Simon Denyer in the Washington Post, front page on Sunday, October 23, 2016, China is preparing to develop an extension of the credit score concept in the U.S., an uber-score or “karma score”, or “social credit” score. It could be implemented by 2020

The score would incorporate information about minor legal infractions, civil disputes, family issues like failing to visit or provide for parents or other elderly relatives (“filial piety”), and most of all, social media postings.  Criticism of others or of the government would lower the score.
The writer brings up the 2002 film “Minority Report” and the concept of “pre-crime”.  But it also invokes Communist ideology of a “socialist utopia” in this “People’s Republic of Capitalism”, as Ted Koppel called it.