Monday, July 27, 2009

Guardian: Terrorist Could Use Internet to Set Off Nuclear Attack

Terrorists groups could soon use the internet to help set off a devastating nuclear attack, according to new research.

The claims come in a study commissioned by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), which suggests that under the right circumstances, terrorists could break into computer systems and launch an attack on a nuclear state – triggering a catastrophic chain of events that would have a global impact.

Without better protection of computer and information systems, the paper suggests, governments around the world are leaving open the possibility that a well-coordinated cyberwar could quickly elevate to nuclear levels.

In fact, says the study, "this may be an easier alternative for terrorist groups than building or acquiring a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb themselves".

Though the paper admits that the media and entertainment industries often confuse and exaggerate the risk of cyberterrorism, it also outlines a number of potential threats and situations in which dedicated hackers could use information warfare techniques to make a nuclear attack more likely.

While the possibility of a radical group gaining access to actual launch systems is remote, the study suggests that hackers could focus on feeding in false information further down the chain – or spreading fake information to officials in a carefully orchestrated strike.


C-5 crew had no idea wheels were missing

C-5 crew had no idea wheels were missing: "CHICOPEE, Mass. — The military says the crew of a huge C-5 transport plane did not realize that two wheels had fallen off during a training flight in western Massachusetts until after they were alerted by an air traffic controller.The 150-pound wheels were recovered from a wooded area of Belchertown, about 20 miles from Springfield.The plane landed safely Thursday at Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., after the incident.Lt. Col. David Heroux told The Republican of Springfield on Friday that an investigation to determine what caused the wheels to fall off could take up to a month.A spokeswoman for the nation’s largest air reserve base says maintenance policies require that the plane be inspected and serviced by five maintenance workers for about 90 minutes before a flight.Related reading* Tires fall off C-5 landing gear while in flight"

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Report: Troops almost used in 2002 terror raid

Report: Troops almost used in 2002 terror raid: "WASHINGTON — The Bush administration in 2002 considered sending U.S. troops into a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb to arrest a group of terror suspects in what would have been a nearly unprecedented use of military power within the United States, The New York Times reported.Vice President Dick Cheney and several other Bush advisers at the time strongly urged that the military be used to apprehend men who were suspected of plotting with al-Qaida, who later became known as the Lackawanna Six, The Times reported on its Web site Friday night. It cited former administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.The proposal advanced to at least one-high level administration meeting before President George W. Bush decided against it.The six young Yemeni-American men from Lackawanna, N.Y., were arrested in September 2002 after investigators learned they received military-type training at Osama bin Laden’s al-Farooq training camp in Afghanistan. All pleaded guilty and received sentences between seven and 10 years.Dispatching troops into the streets is virtually unheard of. The U.S. Constitution and various laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.According to The Times, Cheney and other Bush aides said an Oct. 23, 2001, Justice Department memo gave broad presidential authority that allowed Bush to use the domestic use of the military against al-Qaida if it was justified on the grounds of national security, rather than law enforcement.Among those arguing for the military use besides Cheney were his legal adviser, David S. Addington, and some senior Defense Department officials, The Times reported.Opposing the idea were Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser; John B. Bellinger III, the top lawyer at the National Security Council; FBI Director Robert Mueller; and Michael Chertoff, then head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.Bush ultimately nixed the proposal and ordered the FBI to make the arrests in Lackawanna. The men were subsequently arrested and pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges.Scott L. Silliman, a Duke University law professor specializing in national security law, told The Times that a U.S. president had not deployed the active-duty military on domestic soil in a law enforcement capacity, without specific statutory authority, since the Civil War."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Mock disasters set for Hill AFB

Mock disasters set for Hill AFB: "LAYTON, Utah — For residents around Hill Air Force Base, it would be hard not to notice sirens, smoke and explosive sounds starting Monday for three days.It's nothing to be worried, about, however.The U.S. Air Force says it's holding an operational readiness exercise for all service members at the base.Airmen will be required at times to don chemical-protection gear and gas masks and to take cover.Hill officials say this kind of training is routine at various times of the year."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

India launches nuclear submarine

India launches nuclear submarine: "Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the country's first locally built nuclear-powered submarine on Sunday.



Top Pentagon Contractors Unnamed

Top Pentagon Contractors Unnamed: "Unnamed contractors placed 14th on the DoD's list of top contractors; $2.7 billion was paid to 'not available' companies."

(Via Aerospace Daily & Defense Report on

Friday, July 24, 2009

Robot drones change deadly face of warfare

Robot drones change deadly face of warfare: "Maj. Morgan Andrews, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, kisses his wife goodbye and drives to a tiny desert base in Nevada. Within minutes he could be killing insurgents on the other side of the world. Andrews pilots one of the military's 7,000-plus remote-controlled drones, which can spy on and attack positions without risk to the controller.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Senate rejects additional F-22 funding

Senate rejects additional F-22 funding: "The Senate voted Tuesday to block expansion of one of the country's most controversial and expensive defense programs, the F-22 fighter jet program. The vote gave the White House and Pentagon a key victory over congressional supporters of the F-22, many of whom represent states and districts where jobs are tied to the production of the jet.



Jets blown to bits to test bomb security

Jets blown to bits to test bomb security: "In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a bomb maker pieces together an improvised explosive device that looks like an innocuous stack of DVDs. But this bomb maker isn't a terrorist. He is a U.S. government employee trying to beat terrorists at their own game.



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mystery Object Impacts Jupiter

CNN) -- Jupiter is sporting a new scar after a mystery object hit the gaseous planet this week, NASA scientists say.

This NASA image shows a large impact near Jupiter's southern pole.
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An amateur astronomer in Australia noticed the new mark on the planet Sunday and tipped off scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who then confirmed it was the result of a new impact, NASA said.

It's not clear what the object was that crashed into Jupiter's poisonous atmosphere.

Glenn Orton, a JPL scientist, told the magazine New Scientist that it could have been a block of ice from somewhere in Jupiter's neighborhood, or a wandering comet that was too faint for astronomers to have detected before impact.

"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better," Orton said in a NASA interview.

Scientists also don't know how large the object was, but the impact scar it created is about the same size as Earth, JPL astronomer Leigh Fletcher told the magazine.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11

Apollo 11: "

Almost lost in the hoopla celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon is the fact that astronauts and cosmonauts are at work on the International Space Station - together.

On that summer night in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's steps on the Moon marked the finish line for the Cold War space race. Kennedy's promise had been kept, and the U.S. had won. There wasn't a question of partnership in those days.

blog post photo

Seven astronauts took off last Wednesday in the space shuttle Endeavour from the same launch pad that sent Armstrong, Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins toward their rendezvous with history in and over the lunar Sea of Tranquility. Some of the others in orbit today lifted off in Russian Soyuz capsules from the same launch pad in Kazakhstan where Yuri Gagarin started the human adventure in space on April 12, 1961.

The combined shuttle and station crews have been busy since Endeavour docked, finishing up the Japanese laboratory module and getting the station ready for the day when space shuttles are no longer flying. Overall there are 13 space travelers on the ISS right now -- two each from Russia and Canada, one from Japan, one from Belgium and nine from the U.S. For the first time, all of the station's partner agencies are represented on board.


blog post photo

Every day before the station crew goes to bed the controllers on the ground take turns giving them any last-minute instructions or receiving final reports from orbit. The call signs of that daily tagup -- passed from west to east -- are literally a trip around the world.

It starts in Houston, which was the the first word spoken from the Moon. From there it goes to Huntsville, Ala., where many of the science payloads are controlled; to Munich, where Europe's Columbus lab is managed; to Moscow; to Tsukuba, Japan, home of the Kibo ground crew. Sometimes there are calls to St. Hubert, Quebec, where the Canadian-built robotics are monitored, and Toulouse, France, flight control center for the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle.

Yesterday Brian Smith, the first-shift lead ISS flight director in Houston, commented on the Apollo 11 landing as he stopped by to brief reporters on the day's events.

'Back when we landed on the Moon, it was pretty much two countries involved and obviously they weren't working together,' he told the handful of journalists following the mission, a tiny fraction of the press mob that covered NASA operations 40 years ago. 'One was trying to beat the other in accomplishments for manned space. And now you look at what happens when the countries team up together. We can do so much more and set an example for the rest of the world on exactly how much you can accomplish when you work together. And we can serve as a model for countries working together in a peaceful and a productive way.'

The Apollo program was one of the premier feats in the history of engineering. So, in my view, is the assembly on orbit of the ISS, but with a tremendous dose of diplomacy added in. You could say that the lunar landings were really an act of war, albeit a cold one, in the sense Clausewitz meant when he said war is a continuation of politics by other means. Assembling the ISS is the opposite of that, and Brian Smith hit the nail right on the head about it.

With the space race won, the U.S. quickly retreated from the Moon. It's far from certain that NASA will go back there anytime soon, given other priorities on the U.S. agenda today. But it will be harder to retreat from the ISS. Humans have lived there continuously for almost nine years now, and are only beginning to reap the engineering lessons and scientific results it was built to deliver.

Certainly that is not to discount the courage and imagination that went into Apollo, or to ignore the foundation it set for future spaceflight. In just one example, the astronauts spacewalking outside the station today learned their stuff underwater. In doing so they were applying a training technique that Aldrin -- a scuba enthusiast -- proposed after Gemini-astronaut Ed White and other early spacewalker had trouble maneuvering in zero-g.

'Everything we've accomplished with the space station is built upon what was done in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, and even the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program following that and then Skylab,' Smith said. 'We built on that experience.'

The consoles at Mission Control Center - Houston and its counterpart in the Moscow suburbs are filled with idealistic young engineers like Smith. They have a different life experience than their predecessors, and they are finding important new ways to work together 'in a peaceful and productive way.'

'I wasn't born yet when we landed on the Moon, so I don't have a first-hand recollection and I can't tell you what I was feeling at the time or what my memories were,' Smith said in response to a question from Gina Sunseri of ABC News. 'They don't exist.'


(Via On Space.)

I was a witness to this magnificent event.

Looking back - we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go.

Friday, July 17, 2009

U.S.-based hotels hit by bombs in Jakarta

U.S.-based hotels hit by bombs in Jakarta: "Blasts hit two luxury hotels this morning in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing at least nine people in what the country's president called a terrorist attack. Officials said more than 50 people were injured at the Ritz-Carlton and J. W. Marriott hotels, which are based in the U.S. The U.S. State Department says several American citizens were hurt.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

12 Afghan insurgents die in latest strike

12 Afghan insurgents die in latest strike: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — International troops and Afghan police killed 12 Taliban insurgents in a gunbattle in southern Afghanistan, police said Sunday.

The joint force attacked a compound north of the capital of Uruzgan province where the militants were hiding Saturday evening, sparking the fighting, police spokesman Mohammad Musa said. He said no Afghan police or international troops were killed.In eastern Kunar province, meanwhile, one civilian was killed and five wounded when shelling from a gunbattle between insurgents and Afghan and international forces hit a house.Provincial Police Chief Gen. Abdul Jalal Jalal said everyone in the house initially survived Saturday’s blast, but one man died from his injuries after being rushed to a hospital. Jalal said it was unclear which side fired the shots that hit the house.Also Saturday, at least six police officers were killed by roadside bombs — two in southern Helmand province and at least four south of Kabul in Logar province, officials said.

In Logar, the officers were driving in a private car in Charkh district when the explosion hit, said provincial police chief Gen. Mustafa Mosseini.NATO forces, who secured the site and treated one wounded officer, said in a statement that four police were killed. Mosseini said five officers died.The bombing in Helmand took place Saturday night in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, killing two police and wounding three, said Dawood Ahmadi, the governor’s spokesman.Police officers are regular targets of Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan. Mosseini said the officers had been traveling in a civilian car in order to avoid drawing the attention of potential attackers.In another gunbattle in eastern Paktia province between insurgents and Afghan police, two militants and one police officer were killed, said Rahullah Samon, a spokesman for the governor.———Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed to this report from Kabul."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Iraqi crews ‘ready to go’ on mission

Iraqi crews ‘ready to go’ on mission: "Airmen deployed to Iraq are teaching their Iraqi counterparts to fly airstrike missions.Today, after fewer than a dozen training flights, two Iraqi aircrews — a pilot and a mission-sensor operator make up an aircrew — are qualified to fire Hellfire missiles from AC-208B Caravans, a military version of the single-engine turboprop Cessna Grand Caravan utility airplane. A third aircrew is in training.‘They are ready to go,’ said Lt. Col. Christopher Spigelmire, an F-15 Eagle pilot and commander of the 521st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq.All that is keeping the Iraqis from flying combat sorties are both Iraqi and U.S. military leaders working out rules of engagement such as how strikes will be coordinated with ground commanders, Spigelmire said.

Not unexpectedly, the Iraqi aircrews want to fly and fight — now.‘Yes, of course we want to have weapons to stop the terrorists,’ said Iraqi Col. Mustafa, commander of Kirkuk’s Squadron 3, the unit flying AC-208Bs.The Iraqi airmen had already flown reconnaissance sorties in C-208Bs equipped with cameras. Qualifying them to fly with Hellfire missiles took eight to 11 training flights, including night sorties and Hellfire launches.The Hellfire training parallels the upgrade instruction U.S. crews go through as new weapons are added.As the strike mission grows and new officers arrive, Iraqi airmen will go directly into the AC-208B, Mustafa said.The Iraqi weapons loading and maintenance aircrews are primarily enlisted airmen overseen by young officers, Mustafa said. All started with no experience.‘This is the first time they are dealing with a weapon,’ he said.Because of its light weight — 250 pounds — and laser targeting system, the Hellfire is the missile of choice for small aircraft. The Air Force launches Hellfires from MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. Army helicopters also fly with Hellfires.

The success of the 521st and Squadron 3 is key in determining the Air Force’s long-term role in Iraq. Until the Iraqi military can mount airstrikes on its own, Air Force planes and Army helicopters will get the calls to fly close-air support missions.So far, the primary mission for Iraqi aircrews has been airlift, including C-130 Hercules donated by the U.S. and reconnaissance with no capability to fire on targets when insurgents are spotted.Beyond the AC-208B, the Iraqi government wants to buy F-16 Fighting Falcons, Iraqi officials have said.Working with the Iraqis at Kirkuk are about 25 airmen, including weapons crews, maintainers, rated aircrew members and three pilots, Spigelmire said.

All are volunteers on yearlong tours.The squadron’s earlier mission at Kirkuk was to train Iraqi airmen to fly reconnaissance missions.‘That part of the advisory mission is over,’ he said.The 521st phased itself out of reconnaissance as Iraqi airmen took over the training.Eventually, Iraqi airmen will take over Hellfire training.‘My job is to work myself out of a job,’ Spigelmire said.AC-208B facts* Length: 42 feet* Wing span: 52 feet* Maximum speed: About 200 mph* Range: About 1,000 miles."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Obama seeks review of reputed Afghan mass grave

Obama seeks review of reputed Afghan mass grave: "WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has ordered his national security team to investigate reports that U.S. allies were responsible for the deaths of as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners of war during the opening days of the war in Afghanistan.Obama told CNN in an interview that aired Sunday that he doesn’t know how the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance behaved in November 2001, but he wants a full accounting before deciding how to move forward.‘I think that, you know, there are responsibilities that all nations have even in war,’ Obama said during an interview at the end of a six-day trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana.‘And if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, then I think that, you know, we have to know about that.

’The president’s comments seem to reverse officials’ statements from Friday, when they said they had no grounds to investigate the 2001 deaths of Taliban prisoners of war who human rights groups allege were killed by U.S.-backed forces.Reacting to the interview, Physicians for Human Rights hailed Obama’s decision.‘President Obama is right to say that U.S. and Afghan violations of the laws of war must be investigated,’ said Nathaniel Raymond, a Physicians for Human Rights researcher. ‘If the Obama administration finds that criminal wrongdoing occurred in this case, those responsible — whether American or Afghan officials — must be prosecuted.’But Obama’s direction — discussed as he toured a former slave castle on Ghana’s coast — does not guarantee action.‘We’ll probably make a decision in terms of how to approach it once we have all the facts gathered up,’ Obama said.The mass deaths were brought up anew Friday in a report by The New York Times.

It quoted government and human rights officials accusing the Bush administration of failing to investigate the executions of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of prisoners.U.S. officials said Friday they did not have legal grounds to investigate the deaths because only foreigners were involved and the alleged killings occurred in a foreign country.The Times pointed to U.S. military and CIA ties to Afghan Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, accused by human rights groups of ordering the killings. The newspaper said the Defense Department and FBI never fully investigated the incident.

The allegations date back to November 2001, when as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners died in transit after surrendering during one of the regime’s last stands, according to a State Department report from 2002.Witnesses have claimed that forces with the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance placed the prisoners in sealed cargo containers over the two-day voyage to Sheberghan Prison, suffocating them and then burying them en masse, using bulldozers to move the bodies, according to the State Department report.

Some Northern Alliance soldiers have said that some of their troops opened fire on the containers, killing those within.

Dostum, the Northern Alliance general who is accused of overseeing the atrocities, has previously denied the allegations. He was suspended from his military post last year on suspicion of threatening a political rival, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently rehired him.Related reading* Pentagon: No grounds to examine Afghan deaths"

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Hybrid Wing Body Model Unveiled

NASA's Glenn Research Center dedicated a model of the hybrid wing body, a futuristic aircraft concept, on July 8, 2009. The center is testing parts of a new propulsion system that can be embedded in the wing of the airplane. Developed by NASA and Boeing, the plane is called a hybrid wing body because its wings and fuselage blend together in a triangular shape. The concept could revolutionize air travel because of its potential to increase fuel efficiency, while reducing noise and emissions.

Image Credit: NASA

Endeavor Launch Scrubbed

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 06:03:28 PM CDT

Officials at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida have called off today's liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour due to inclement weather. Cumulus clouds and lightning violated rules for launching Endeavour because of weather near the Shuttle Landing Facility. The runway would be needed in the unlikely event that Endeavour would have to make an emergency landing back at Kennedy.

Endeavour's next launch attempt is 6:51 p.m. EDT Monday. NASA TV coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Source: Cheney kept CIA info from Congress

Source: Cheney kept CIA info from Congress: "The CIA withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress during the Bush administration on direct orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, current CIA director Leon Panetta told members of Congress, a knowledgeable source confirmed to CNN.



Source: Cheney kept CIA info from Congress

Source: Cheney kept CIA info from Congress: "The CIA withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress during the Bush administration on direct orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, current CIA director Leon Panetta told members of Congress, a knowledgeable source confirmed to CNN.




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