Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Underwear Bomber


CNN) -- The would-be assassin of Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, head of Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts, hid his bomb in his underwear, apparently believing that cultural taboos would prevent a search in that part of his body, according to a Saudi government official close to the investigation.


Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, head of counterterrorism, was slightly injured in August.

The prince, head of Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism efforts, was slightly injured when the bomb exploded in the August attack. Several news reports this week have said the assailant hid the bomb inside his rectum, but according to the Saudi official, the government assessment discounted those reports, based on various factors.

Among them: When the bomb went off there was a flash of light, suggesting that the bomb was not hidden inside the assassin's body. Also, doctors consulted by the government judged that the toxicity of the plastic explosives would make them hard to hold for many hours inside the rectum, and the environment in this area of the body would make detonation "difficult," according to the Saudi official close to the investigation.

The Saudis said they think the bomb weighed 100 grams and was made with a plastic explosive, to avoid detection by metal detectors through which the would-be assassin had to pass before he was allowed to meet with the prince.

The official said the explosive was PETN, which was used by the so-called shoe bomber Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight between Paris, France, and Miami, Florida, in December 2001.

The Saudis are exploring the possibility that the prince's assailant exploded the device using a detonator that used a chemical fuse, which would not be detected by a metal detector.

The would-be assassin -- a Saudi member of al Qaeda who had fled to Yemen, identified as Abdullah Hassan al Asiri -- posed as a member of the terror group willing to surrender personally to Prince Nayef.


READ FULL STORY HERE

NORAD says crashed aircraft was flying erratically.


Washington - US military officials say a small, single engine plane crashed near Muncie, Indiana, after operating erratically. They said they believe the pilot, who was the only person on the plane, had been suffering from a lack of oxygen.

A spokesman for US Northern Command said that military officials do not believe it is terrorism related. Instead, Michael Kucharek said the pilot may have blacked out due to a condition known as hypoxia.

The FAA reports the six-year-old plane, a Mooney M20, took off from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is registered to a company based in Ada, Michigan.

The plane was flying at 25,000 feet when Grand Rapids control lost radio contact with the pilot and called for military assistance to make a visual contact.

At around 9:30 am, F-16 fighters under the direction of North American Aerospace Defense Command intercepted the aircraft.

SEE THE FLIGHT TRACK OF THIS AIRCRAFT HERE

"It was creating a situation where he would speed up, slow down, change course. He was flying in a southerly direction but he was flying erratically," said John Erickson, Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Erickson said the pilots in the escort planes saw that the pilot was disoriented at first, then unresponsive. The F-16 pilots reported that the pilot was slumped over the yoke.

"It was steadily losing altitude and they were reporting that as it happened," said Erickson.

According to the Indiana Guard, the escorts came from the Ohio Air Guard.

The crash occurred in a Randolph County farm field approximately a half-mile west of State Road 1 and about 1,000 feet south of State Road 28. State Road 28 is closed at the crash scene.

The NTSB will be handling the investigation. The pilot's condition is not known at this time.

Kucharek said the plane was heading south-southeast and had been speeding up and slowing down to dangerous speeds. Law enforcement was on the scene.

Initially there was some concern that the plane was headed towards Indianapolis and that it might crash somewhere on North Keystone, a busy thoroughfare.

The intent of military intercepts is to identify aircraft, re-establish communications with local FAA air traffic controllers and instruct the pilot to follow air traffic controllers to land safely for further follow-on action.

NORAD's mission - in close collaboration with homeland defense, security, and law enforcement partners - is to prevent air attacks against North America, safeguard the sovereign airspaces of the United States and Canada by responding to unknown, unwanted and unauthorized air activity approaching and operating within these airspaces, and provide aerospace and maritime warning for North America.

NORAD may be required to monitor, shadow, divert from flight path, direct to land and/or destroy platforms deemed a potential threat to North America.

NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that is responsible for the air defense of North America and maritime warning. The command has three subordinate regional headquarters: the Alaskan NORAD Region at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; the Canadian NORAD Region at Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the Continental NORAD Region at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The command is poised both tactically and strategically in our nation's capital to provide a multilayered defense to detect, deter and prevent potential threats flying over the airspace of the United States and Canada.

Underwater Aircraft Sleuths


Searchers in California say they have found and identified the wreck of a fighter jet that disappeared into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles International Airport nearly 54 years ago.


Searchers found the wreckage of a T-33A jet on the Santa Monica Bay floor. The jet disappeared in 1955.

The searchers were looking for another missing plane when they came upon the wreckage of a Lockheed T-33A jet trainer, said Pat Macha, an aircraft archeologist who has identified about 3,700 crash sites and visited more than 800.

"It's a funky thing," Macha said Tuesday. "You're looking for one aircraft, and you find another."

The T-33 disappeared shortly after taking off on an early-morning training navigation flight October 15, 1955, an Air Force Aircraft Accident Report says. Two crewmen were aboard. The plane had been presumed lost at sea all these years.

The discovery started this year near Austin, Texas, where computer expert Gary Fabian found "what looked like a few little pixels" on a high-definition U.S. Geological Survey image of the Santa Monica Bay ocean floor.

Fabian is the founder of a group of unpaid sleuths who discovered a missing World War I German U-boat off the California coast in 2003. The group, known as UB88.org, has continued to search for other wrecks.

Before moving to Texas, Fabian became interested in military aircraft wrecks and found Macha about five years ago in Huntington Beach, California.

Macha told him about his search for the wreckage of a P-51D Mustang fighter flown by World War II Women's Air Force Service pilot Gertrude V. "Tommy" Tompkins Silver. The plane was presumed lost at sea in 1944.

Of the 38 WASP pilots who lost their lives in World War II, Macha said, Silver's is the only wreckage that has not been found. Macha has been searching for the wreckage for 11 years.

Silver's 100-year-old sister lives in Florida, Macha said, and he would like to find the wreckage so she can know what happened.

From Texas, Fabian sent the map info to Ray Arntz, owner and operator of a southern California dive company and a fellow member of UB88.org.

Arntz and some his employees set out to search three wrecks using side-scan sonar. Two turned out to be boats. They weren't sure about the third.

"I just grabbed a tank and went down to look at it," Arntz said.

He saw a fairly compact debris field with a lot of aluminum, which indicated that it was an airplane. Then he saw landing gear.

" 'It's an airplane,' I said to myself. 'How do we go from here?' "

A manufacturer's number on a feed mechanism for a 50-caliber machine gun started him and the others toward piecing together what they had found. The engine appeared to be a jet, so he knew it wasn't the Mustang, which had a propeller motor.

By that point, Arntz said, "We know it's not what we're looking for."

The manufacturer's number indicated that it was a T-33 Shooting Star. Researching government documents, the searchers found that a T-33 had disappeared in the area.

"It just matched what we had," Arntz said. "The T-33 was it."

That was about a month ago. The searchers kept quiet about their find until family members could be notified. Macha said he spoke with a relative of one of the two crew members a few days ago.

The Air Force accident report identifies the pilots as Lt. Richard Martin Theiler and Lt. Paul Dale Smith. Theiler had 1,244 hours of flying experience, and Smith had 430.

Another volunteer group called Missing Aircraft Search Team also helped find the wreckage.

The searchers had another reason for initially keeping silent about their find.

"We're trying to quietly do this stuff and move on so the sites don't get ravaged," Arntz said.

The group also found a B-36 Peacemaker bomber near San Diego last year. The plane disappeared in 1952.

For the three searchers, finding wrecks is an unpaid passion.

"We do this fairly consistently," said Arntz, 61. "As amateurs, this is our form of recreation."

Said Fabian with a laugh, "It's an absolutely money-losing proposition."

Fabian, 46, is an ex-sports fisherman who says he has an "obsession" with the water and an "interest in the maritime history of Southern California."

Macha, 64, says he got interested in aircraft wrecks in the 1960s when he found a crash site while working in a Boy Scout camp in the San Bernardino Mountains.

There are 2,500 crash sites in California, he said, where all or parts of an airplane still remain. Some of them are chronicled on his Web site, aircraftwrecks.com.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Secret Service probes Facebook poll on Obama

(CNN) -- The social networking site Facebook on Monday pulled a third-party application that allows users to create polls after a site member built a poll asking if President Obama should be killed.

There are more than 350,000 applications on Facebook. The company says it disables any that violate its terms.

The U.S. Secret Service, the agency assigned to protect the president, has launched an investigation, agency spokesman James Mackin said.

"As is usually the case, our vigilant users reported it to us first," Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told CNN. "The USSS [Secret Service] sent us an e-mail late this morning PDT asking us to take it down. At that point, it had already been removed, and we let them know."

Schnitt said the application "was immediately suspended while the inappropriate content could be removed by the developer and until such time as the developer institutes better procedures to monitor their user-generated content."

Facebook allows third-party developers to create applications -- such as polls and quizzes -- which are then made available to Facebook users, who use the applications to create specific content. Users may choose to make their content available to the general population of Facebook or limit it only to their friends.

In this case, Schnitt said, the user made the poll asking whether Obama should be killed available to the general public.

The possible responses to the poll were "yes," "maybe," "if he cuts my health care" and "no."

B-1B crew to get Mackay Trophy for bombing run

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B-1B crew to get Mackay Trophy for bombing run: "The Mackay Trophy is going this year to the crew of a B-1B Lancer bomber, credited with helping stop a remote base in Afghanistan from being overrun by insurgents.Earning the honor for flying the most meritorious Air Force mission of 2008 are Maj. Norman Shelton, Capt. Kaylene Giri, Capt. Louis Heidema, and Capt. Boyd Smith. At the time of the mission, all were assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.The crew’s citation said 200 insurgents were trying to overrun Vehicle Patrol Base Wanat when the bomber, call sign ‘BONE 23,’ was sent to the base’s defense on July 13, 2008.At first, a joint terminal attack controller at the base requested a pair of 2,000-pound guided bombs. When the crew of BONE 23 realized the ground troops would be too close to the bomb explosions — ‘danger close,’ according to the crew — they suggested using 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions bombs. Within 30 minutes, BONE 23 flew three bomb runs ‘decisively slowing the enemy attack, allowing coalition forces to regroup,’ the Mackay citation said.The four airmen will formally accept the award Nov. 2 during the National Aeronautic Association’s fall awards banquet.Other airmen honored with the Mackay Trophy include Henry 'Hap' Arnold, Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Chuck Yeager."



(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Pilot error caused fatal F-16 crash

Pilot error caused fatal F-16 crash: "Inexperience and disorientation during a night training flight led to the fatal crash June 22 of an F-16 Fighting Falcon in Utah, an Air Combat Command accident investigation board concluded in a report released Monday.Killed in the crash was Capt. George Houghton of the 421st Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.The report noted that while Houghton had 1,572 hours piloting military planes — primarily in T-6 Texans as a first-assignment instructor — he only had 156 hours in F-16s and was considered an inexperienced pilot.The fatal mission at the Utah Test and Training Range called for Houghton to fly a high-angle strafing run at night, the report said. Houghton had flown only five similar night attacks as the squadron prepared to deploy to Afghanistan.The report noted Houghton started his dive 4,000 feet above ground, about 2,000 feet lower than rules called for. Houghton could have spotted the mistake by checking cockpit readings.Because of darkness, Houghton may not have been aware of how low he was when the jet passed below 1,000 feet, the report said. There was no evidence he tried to bail out."



(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Iran tests another ballistic missile/trying hard to be feared.


Iran test fired two types of long-range missiles on Monday, including the two-stage Sajil, state-run Press TV reported.

A short-range missile is test-launched during war games in Qom, Iran, south of Tehran, on Sunday.

"We are still waiting for new reports about the missiles and whether they have hit the targets or not," Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, Iran's air force commander, said on Press TV. "These are ... advanced long-range missiles and they were manufactured by the ... Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."

He said the launches took place Monday morning.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began a series of missile exercises Sunday to promote the armed forces' defense capabilities.

The tests, which are expected to conclude later Monday, are codenamed "Payghambar-e Azam 4" or "The Great Prophet 4," Press TV said.

Iran says the Shahab-3 missile, which it also launched Monday, can strike targets within a range of about 800 to 1,250 miles (1,300 to 2,000 kilometers).

The Sajil-2 missile is a solid-fuel rocket with a similar range and has been launched twice before, in November 2008 and May 2009.

If true, the missile brings Moscow, Athens and southern Italy within striking distance.

At the time of the May launch, a White House official said actions in Iran were noteworthy. Watch analyst's view on missile tests, nuclear tensions »

"Of course, this is just a test, and obviously there is much work to be done before it can be built and deployed. But I see it as a significant step forward in terms of Iran's capacity to deliver weapons," said Gary Samore, special assistant to the president on nonproliferation.

Iran's testing on Sunday included the Fateh-110, a short-range ground-to-ground missile, and Tondar-69, a short-range naval missile, the station said. Several models of medium-range Shahab missiles were tested at night, Press TV reported. Watch Iranian missile tests »

The tests followed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disclosure Friday that Iran was building a second uranium enrichment facility.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with CBS News


(CBS) As the news from Afghanistan moves to the front pages of Americans' newspapers, the general tasked with turning things around there tells 60 Minutes that the spread of the violence in Afghanistan was more than he expected.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with CBS News National Security correspondent David Martin will be broadcast on the 42nd season premiere of 60 Minutes this Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Martin spent a week speaking to the general in Kabul and following him on his daily mission overseeing the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Asked if things are better or worse than he expected since his arrival a few months ago, the general replies, "They're probably a little worse. I think that in some areas that the breadth of the violence, the geographic spread of violence, is a little more than I would have gathered."

The increased violence has resulted in 265 civilians killed in U.S. or coalition action in the past 12 months the general says, a situation that must stop if victory is to be attained.

"This civilian casualty issue is much more important than I even realized. It is literally how we lose the war, or in many ways how we win it," McChrystal explained.

The general has halted many operations aimed too close to civilians, even if the target area was the source of enemy fire. He believes it's more important to protect civilians than kill Taliban or Qaeda fighters, because not having the support of the Afghan people is a risk he cannot afford.

"If people view us as occupiers and the enemy, we can't be successful and our casualties will go up dramatically," he tells Martin.

Relying on overwhelming U.S. firepower is not the way to proceed in Afghanistan says McChrystal.

"You know, the favorite saying…'To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.' We can't walk with only a hammer in our hands," says McChrystal.


LINK

Iran tests ballistic missile


CNN) -- Iran tested a missile-launching system and two types of missiles Sunday, the state-run Press TV said. The missile tests come amid tension over the Islamic republic's nuclear program.


Iran test-fired a missile in May that was believed to be able to reach parts of Europe.

The missiles, fired at targets around the country Sunday, included the Fateh-110, a short-range ground-to-ground missile, and Tondar-69, a short-range naval missile, the station said. Iran plans to test the long-range Shahab missile on Monday.

The tests, which are expected to go on for the next 10 to 11 days, are codenamed "Payghambar-e Azam 4" or "The Great Messenger 4," Press TV said.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had said it would stage missile exercises to promote the armed forces' defense capabilities.

The tests come after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disclosure Friday that Iran was building a second uranium enrichment facility.

The United States and Israel believe that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy program. Iran has denied the allegation.

In May, Iran said it tested a surface-to-surface missile that is capable of reaching parts of Europe.

At the time, a White House official said the test was noteworthy.

"Of course, this is just a test, and obviously there is much work to be done before it can be built and deployed. But I see it as a significant step forward in terms of Iran's capacity to deliver weapons," said Gary Samore, special assistant to the president on nonproliferation.

Friday, September 25, 2009

From Beyond the Cave: Bin Laden: BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.


CNN) -- A purported message from Osama bin Laden to Europeans urges them to distance themselves from the United States, noting that Americans are losing the war in Afghanistan.

The brief message in Arabic, which appeared Friday on radical Islamic Web sites, has subtitles in English and German.

Bin Laden issued his last message on September 13, two days after the eighth anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks in the United States.

The authenticity of the message could not immediately be established.

Al Qaeda has recently released threatening videos aimed at Germany, where voters are scheduled to go to the polls Sunday. The militant group has warned Germans not to choose leaders who support the war in Afghanistan.

"It won't be long until the dust of war clears in Afghanistan, at which point you won't find a trace of any American," he adds.

"You are aware that oppression topples those who commit it and injustice has unhealthy consequences for the unjust, and that one of the greatest forms of injustice is to kill people without right, yet this is exactly what your governments and soldiers are committing under the umbrella of the NATO alliance in Afghanistan," bin Laden warns.
He rails against the United States for attacks that he says are aimed at the Taliban and al Qaeda but that kill and wound civilians.

"An intelligent man doesn't waste his money and sons for a gang of criminals in Washington, and it is a shameful thing for a person to be in a coalition whose supreme commander has no regard for human life and intentionally bombs villagers from the air, and I am witness to that," he says.

Stefan Paris, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry, told CNN the country's intelligence services and authorities are aware of the new message, are evaluating it and take it very seriously.

"It fits into the massive propaganda flood that we have been seeing ahead of the elections," Paris said, and added, "We will not be forced into a state of panic by this message. We will continue to do our work meticulously and clear-headed."

Dallas Terror Suspect Caught By Being Dumb Enough To Post Plans Online


DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- A terror suspect accused of plotting the bombing of a skyscraper in Dallas, Texas, drew authorities' scrutiny because of his violent posts on an extremist chat site, court papers indicate.


Authorities say the Fountain Place skyscraper in Dallas, Texas, was targeted in an alleged bomb plot.

The suspect, a 19-year-old Jordanian, was arrested Thursday in a sting operation, the FBI said.

Federal officials said Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, who entered the United States illegally and lived in Texas, tried to set off an explosive attached to a vehicle at the base of the 60-story Fountain Place office tower.

Long before authorities arrested Smadi, however, they were reading his posts on the extremist chat site, according to a court affidavit.

"Smadi was discovered by the FBI within an online group of extremists," the affidavit says. "Among many others in the group who espoused and endorsed violence, Smadi stood out, based on his vehement intention to actually conduct terror attacks in the United States." Jordanian in Dallas given fake explosive »

Undercover officers then contacted Smadi, posing as members of an al Qaeda sleeper cell. After months of conversations, the agents considered Smadi a legitimate threat.

Smadi picked several targets to attack, including the Dallas-Forth Worth airport, before deciding on the skyscraper, which houses Wells Fargo Bank, the affidavit says. It details a conversation that Smadi allegedly had with authorities:

"I have decided to change the target," he said, according to the affidavit. "God willing, the strike will be certain and strong. It will shake the currently weak economy in the state and the American nation, because this bank is one of the largest banks in the city."

Smadi said many times that he wanted to commit violent jihad and he was a soldier of Osama bin Laden, the affidavit says.

Undercover agents tried to get Smadi to "re-evaluate his interpretation of jihad," saying there were nonviolent ways to commit the act. But "Smadi again communicated his continuing commitment for violent jihad," the affidavit says.

After casing the bank in July, Smadi told an undercover agent he would target it, according to authorities. Initially, Smadi told the agent he wanted to bomb the bank on September 11, but decided to wait until the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ended on September 20, authorities said.

After receiving what he thought was an explosive from an undercover agent, Smadi drove a car with the fake bomb into a parking garage under the skyscraper, authorities said. Smadi thought he could detonate the bomb by dialing his cell phone.

When he dialed, the number rang a phone in authorities' possession, the affidavit says.

Counterterrorism officials on Thursday arrested Smadi before publicly disclosing a similar but unrelated terrorism sting arrest Wednesday in Springfield, Illinois. A federal law enforcement official familiar with the cases said authorities feared word of the Illinois arrest could tip off the Te

Iran's secret nuke plant


(UPI) -- The United States, Britain and France planned to accuse Iran of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, a White House official said.

The accusation was to be made in a statement Friday before the start of Group of 20 economic summit sessions in Pittsburgh, The New York Times reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were expected to demand that Iran allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct an inspection of the facility immediately, the aide said. The three leaders were expected to say the enrichment plant, reportedly 100 miles from Tehran, has been hidden from inspectors for years.

U.S. officials say they've been following the project for years, but Obama chose to make the information public because Iran recently discovered intelligence agencies penetrated the secrecy surrounding the project, the Times said.

Iranian officials earlier this week sent a letter to the IAEA saying the country had a pilot plant under construction but had never before revealed its existence, the Times said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not mention the plant during his visit to the United Nations, where he restated his view that Iran has cooperated with inspectors.

The newly discovered enrichment plant isn't operational but could be in a year, U.S. officials said.


© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

UPDATE:
CNN) -- Iran has acknowledged the existence of a second uranium enrichment plant in a letter sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a spokesman for the nuclear watchdog agency said Friday.

"I can confirm that on 21 September, Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country," agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire said.

The letter said Iran's enrichment level would be up to 5 percent, he said. The agency has requested that Iran provide specific information and access to the nuclear facility as soon as possible.

White House sources said President Obama will make an announcement regarding the second Iranian facility at a news conference Friday morning before the opening of the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Several diplomatic sources told CNN they were aware of the letter.

The second nuclear facility, on a military base near the holy city of Qom, is thought to be capable of housing 3,000 centrifuges, not enough to produce nuclear fuel to power a reactor, but sufficient to manufacture bomb-making material, a U.S. diplomatic source who read the letter told CNN.

U.S. and French intelligence officials have known about the facility for several months, the source said. When Iran discovered that Western nations had knowledge of the facility, it sent the letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran claims its nuclear enrichment program is intended for peaceful purposes, but the international community accuses it of continuing to try to develop nuclear weapons capability. Before the new letter, it had acknowledged only a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, which nuclear inspectors visited recently.

The United Nations Security Council has implemented sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt enrichment.

The New York Times reported that Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy plan to accuse Iran of hiding its nuclear facilities from inspectors.

The three leaders are expected to demand that Iran allow an immediate inspection of the facility in Qom, the Times reported.


READ MORE HERE

UPDATE: OBAMA UNLOADS ON IRAN:

ITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- The United States, France and Britain have presented "detailed evidence" to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog that "Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility," President Obama said Friday before the start of the G-20 economic summit.


President Obama told Iran to "take concrete steps" to show it will comply with its nuclear regulations.

Iran's newly unveiled uranium enrichment facility "is inconsistent with a peaceful (nuclear) program," Obama said.

"Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," he said.

He called on Iran to "take concrete steps" to demonstrate it will comply with its international obligations to ensure its nuclear program is for civilian use and not a covert weapons program.

Iran has acknowledged the existence of a second uranium enrichment plant in a letter sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a spokesman for the nuclear watchdog agency said Friday.

"I can confirm that on 21 September, Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country," agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire said.

The letter said Iran's enrichment level would be up to 5 percent, he said. The agency has requested that Iran provide specific information and access to the nuclear facility as soon as possible.

Several diplomatic sources told CNN they were aware of the letter.

The second nuclear facility, on a military base near the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom, is thought to be capable of housing 3,000 centrifuges, not enough to produce nuclear fuel to power a reactor, but sufficient to manufacture bomb-making material, a U.S. diplomatic source who read the letter told CNN.

U.S. and French intelligence officials have known about the facility for several months, the source said. When Iran discovered that Western nations had knowledge of the facility, it sent the letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran claims its nuclear enrichment program is intended for peaceful purposes, but the international community accuses it of continuing to try to develop nuclear weapons capability. Before the new letter, it had acknowledged only a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, which nuclear inspectors visited recently.

The United Nations Security Council has implemented sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt enrichment.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not mention the plant during his visit to New York this week for U.N. General Assembly sessions. He reiterated earlier claims that Iran has fully cooperated with nuclear inspectors.

Obama has already said that "serious sanctions" are a possibility if Iran fails to adequately address the nuclear issue.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Man arrested in alleged attempt to bomb Dallas skyscraper



06:36 PM CDT on Thursday, September 24, 2009
WFAA.com staff report
DALLAS - Police arrested a man after he allegedly placed an inactive car bomb near Fountain Place at 1445 Ross Avenue in downtown Dallas.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian citizen who has been living and working in Italy, Texas illegally, was charged with "attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction," authorities said.

Authorities said Smadi had been under FBI surveillance for some time after expressing "his desire to commit violent jihad" numerous times.

After learning of Smadi, undercover FBI agents were introduced to him as "sleeper cells," read a statement released by the United States Attorney's Office. During several months with the 19-year-old, authorities said they learned he had no connection to other terrorist organizations but was intent to sacrifice himself in violent Jihad despite efforts of agents to "reevaluate his interpretation of Jihad."

In June, Smadi allegedly listed a group of potential targets in the Dallas area. However, agents said in July he began to set his focus on the Wells Fargo Bank located inside Fountain Place.

Smadi planned on using a vehicle improvised explosive device (VBIED) to bomb Fountain Place at the end of Ramadan, which is September 20, authorities said. However, authorities said agents worked to ensure "the VBIED contained only an inert/inactive explosive device, which contained no explosive materials." The FBI said the public was never in danger.

With 60 floors, Fountain Place is the fifth tallest building in Dallas and the 15th tallest building in Texas. The building was designed by I.M. Pei and Partners and completed in 1986.

Russia you suck at IMovie!


CNN) -- A videotape on a Russian Web site allegedly showing a State Department employee having sex with a prostitute is a "smear campaign" meant to discredit the man, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.


The State Department has said the tape allegedly showing an employee having sex with a prostitute is a fake.

The employee, Brendan Kyle Hatcher, denied any encounter with a prostitute to his superiors at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, another State Department official said.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, "supports" Hatcher, who remains at his job at the embassy.

Hatcher had previously worked in the sensitive area of religious and human rights in Russia, the spokesman said.

"Mr. Hatcher ... enjoys the full confidence of Ambassador Beyrle and fully intends to serve out the rest of his tour in Moscow," Kelly said at an afternoon briefing at the State Department.

The United States "deplores this type of campaign and use of the Internet to smear a foreign service officer of good standing," he added. Watch why the U.S. says the tape is doctored »

Beyrle was unequivocal in expressing his support in an interview with ABC News.

"Kyle Hatcher has done nothing wrong," he said. "Clearly, the video we saw was a montage of lot of different clips, some of them which are clearly fabricated."

A senior State Department official said, "It's a doctored tape and a set-up designed to implicate someone working as a liaison with religious and human rights groups in Russia."

The official said Hatcher, who is married, "was approached by Russians; they tried to blackmail him, but he did everything correctly," reporting the incident to his supervisors at the Embassy.

The tape then appeared on the tabloid newspaper Web site Compromat.ru and was picked up by other outlets. Diplomatic sources who declined to be named said Compromat.ru has a history of ties to Russia's security services.

Russia's Foreign Ministry had no comment when asked about the video.

Another senior State Department official, who has seen the video, said "it's clear to me that it's him," referring to portions showing Hatcher alone in the hotel room.

"But then the lights go down," and the footage from there on is faked, that official said.

The video of Hatcher in the hotel room was taken last year, "somewhere in Siberia," said the senior State Department official who watched the video.

It was shot in a hotel that Hatcher visited, the official said.

When questioned about the possible motivation for creating the video, the official said it's presumed "it was done because of his human rights work," in Russia.

The official doubted the incident will have any effect on U.S.-Russian relations and noted that the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry have both been "very cooperative" in the months since the footage came to light.

"The vast majority of people there are working toward better relations," the official said.

Another official said Hatcher is a "great officer" who, until last summer, was a political reporting officer focusing on religious freedom issues in Russia. The assignment lasts two years: one year in that specialty and a year on the visa-issuing line at the embassy.

Last year, this official said, Hatcher was the lead officer compiling the State Department's Religious Freedom report and was given an award for his work by the ambassador.

READ MORE HERE.

Colorado man indicted on conspiracy to use WMDs.


A Colorado man arrested in a U.S. terror investigation has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction -- explosive bombs -- against persons or property in the United States, the Justice Department said Thursday.


Najibullah Zazi, 24, has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the U.S.

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York on Wednesday returned a one-count indictment against Najibullah Zazi, 24, of Aurora, Colorado, a Denver suburb.

The Justice Department said FBI agents in Colorado first arrested Zazi over the weekend in a criminal complaint that said he "knowingly and willfully" made false statements to the FBI involving international and domestic terrorism.

Also arrested were Zazi's father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, also from suburban Denver, and Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, a Muslim cleric and funeral director from Queens, New York.

All three were arrested late Saturday in what the Justice Department has said was a plot to detonate bombs in the United States. They have been charged with lying to federal agents during the investigation of the alleged plot.

Originally from Afghanistan, Mohammed Wali Zazi is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Afzali and Najibullah Zazi are permanent legal residents.

The Zazis were arrested in Colorado, and Afzali was detained in New York.

Afzali was ordered released on bond, and his parents are putting up their home in Queens, New York, to secure his $1.5 million bail. He will be allowed to travel to the funeral home to work and the mosque to worship. Additional travel will be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

The Justice Department is working to have Zazi transferred from Colorado to New York to be arraigned on the new charge. If convicted, Zazi faces a potential sentence of life in prison.

The one-count indictment alleges that between August 1, 2008, and September 21, Zazi "knowingly and intentionally conspired with others to use one or more of the explosives."

It said that Zazi and others "traveled in interstate and foreign commerce, used e-mail and the Internet, and that this offense and the results of the offense would have affected interstate and foreign commerce."

"We are investigating a wide range of leads related to this alleged conspiracy, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure that anyone involved is brought to justice," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "We believe any imminent threat arising from this case has been disrupted, but as always, we remind the American public to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement."

A government detention motion filed in New York and in Colorado said "Zazi received detailed bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and traveled to New York City on September 10, 2009, in furtherance of his criminal plans."

It said Zazi traveled overseas to receive bomb-making instructions, conducted Internet research on explosives' components and made purchases of components "necessary to produce TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) and other explosive devices."

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homeland Security Issues Alert: Soft Targets Vulnerable


(WASHINGTON) A terror investigation spanning from New York to Denver is prompting the Department of Homeland Security to issue security bulletins to local law enforcement.

Authorities say more arrests may be coming in a widening U.S. terror investigation. At the center of the investigation, three men have been charged with lying to federal agents. Najibullah Zazi, his father, and Muslim cleric Ahmad Afzali were arrested over the weekend in what the Justice Department has said was a plot to detonate bombs in the United States. They have all denied the allegations.

Afzali, who--authorities reported--had been working with the FBI, is accused of trying to tip off Zazi that he was being monitored; a claim his lawyer denies. The authorities generally requested that the imam find out anyway he can where Zazi is, where he has been, where he's going and what he is up to, only to later learn that Zazi was coming to New York with the purpose of carrying out a terrorist attack.

All three suspects are from Afghanistan and were in the United States legally, which one former CIA officer said is troubling. "This is our nightmare," the former CIA official said. The military would call this having somebody "inside the wire." Zazi doesn't need to go through immigration or customs although they probably noticed him traveling to Pakistan.
While there is no information regarding the specific timing, location or target of any alleged planned attack, there are still concerns and that has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to issue new warnings about the vulnerability of so-called soft targets--namely, transportation hubs, subways, buses, and other vulnerable "soft" locations.

Federal counter-terrorism officials are urging law enforcement and private companies to be more vigilant at entertainment complexes and hotels specifically.

Buff in the Amarillo pattern tonight ...

Doom 99 was his callsign. Gave his base as NAS Ft Worth/Carswell. Flew over the apartments three times tonight.
Gotta love the BUFF!




Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Scrambled F-15s scare NJ residents

Scrambled F-15s scare NJ residents: "HILLSBOROUGH, N.J. — Houses shook and dogs barked in central New Jersey as two F-15 fighter jets chased after a plane that had wandered into restricted airspace.Maj. Mike Humphreys with the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado says the aircraft had taken off from Central Jersey Airport in Hillsborough Monday afternoon and returned before the jets reached it.Humphreys says the pilot was met by airport personnel. No name has been released.The temporary flight restriction coincided with President Barack Obama’s visit to New York City. The Federal Aviation Administration says it will remain in effect through Thursday.Residents in Edison, South River, East Brunswick and Piscataway reported seeing and hearing the military jets."



(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

For Rick ...



I had a few e-mails from a few visitors to this blog wanting a few details about the space shuttle photography, camera and lenses used etc .

They also wanted to know how I was able to get so close.

First, why Amarillo?

Two reasons - the long runway (13,502 feet long) was originally Amarillo AIr Force Base. It was designed as a SAC runway that could survive a nuclear war and for use by SAC's big bombers. At one time they considered basing the B-70 bomber in Amarillo, but the bomber itself never came to be.

Second reason it was the home to Commander Rick Husband - who died a hero when Columbia was destroyed.

Not to mention many NASA aircraft still use the runway (as Rick did) for practice approaches and as such holds a special place in many of the hearts of high-ranking officers in NASA.

What better way to thank Amarillo's favorite son than to fly the space shuttle in for a quick turn and public look-see?




Most of the shots were taken with my venerable Nikon D-70s. I also used my Canon Pro-1 but haven't uploaded those photos yet.

Lenses were a Nikkor 18mm to 70mm ED Zoom lens (for the wide shots) and a Nikkor 70 to 300mm for the telephoto shots.
I also use a a graduated neutral density filter to keep the bright sky from washing out.

ISO was 50 set for maximum color saturation and minimum noise.

As for access: Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo is a public facility, and the general public could shoot from behind the perimeter fence which did afford them a pretty good view.



Here's another shot of some locals shooting from behind the English Field House restaurant.












However, because of the Bell/Textron MV-22 plant on the airport grounds (making it a DOD protected facility) security was more than evident.


They were however very approachable and friendly. The mood was a celebratory one but muted with most minding their manners giving security no reason to be on alert.

No on (not even the local press) were allowed behind the perimeter fence.

No press passes were issued, and my repeated requests for one (days in advance) fell on deaf ears.

In fact airport security and administration played dumb and acted like (on the phone at least) like they hadn't received any word the shuttle ferry flight would be refueling in Amarillo and tried their best to fein surprise. It was only after the flight plan for NASA 911 popped up on FlightAware that they came forth and told admitted it was on its way.

Once the local media started calling, they denied everyone access except some local dignitaries and airport maint staff.

However, private and corporates pilots who had hangared aircraft at the airport were not restricted from opening up their hangars and shooting photographs from the aprons in front of their hangars.



And through a friend of a friend of a friend i was able to finagle my way in and shoot within 60 feet of the space/aircraft as long as I didn't cross a certain line., which basically was were the taxi-way began.



Some over enthusiastic photographers ( like some nimrods from the local paper) did cross the line and they were warned repeatedly by security but never no one was asked to leave.








Note: the local Amarillo Globe News newspaper photographers (especially the two in the photo below ) with no regard for others kept rudely walking in front of the other photographers blocking their shots.



They had these big hunks of glass hanging from their cameras (500mm or better) which they apparently didn't know how to use because their photos sucked.

The first ones that were posted (the long telephoto shots) were underexposed, out of focus and filed with spots (dirty sensors) but have since then been replaced with cute people-pleasing crowd shots.

I know it sounds like I'm ragging on the AGN photogs, but I have a right to.

I was one for almost ten years and would have never acted like they did.

Now this is when a weirs synchronicity kicks in:

I've photographed the shuttle in orbit many times (from the ground) and (tragically) documented the last fiery final plunge of the space shuttle Columbia as it broke up over Texas killing Amarillo native Rick Husband who the airport was named for.

I went to Crockett Junior High with Rick and (although I didn't know him well) he once asked me if I wanted to fly in a sailplane with him.

I asked mom - but she said no. I was just a teen at the time.

Since then (even as we both grew-up and went our separate paths) I'd would occasionally bump into Rick from time to time, both of us being drawn to aviation oriented events like air-shows and such. We'd chat for a bit and then go our separate ways again.

When I heard he had been selected to fly the shuttle I was one of the few who could honestly say "I knew him when."
I just wish I had known him better.

It was an ironic twist, I'd be the one on the ground photographing what may have well been the last few seconds of his life.

That was a tragic day.

Never-the-less, I could never have imagined I would be shooting photos of the Space Shuttle at an airport named in his honor.

A statue of Rick greets fliers in the airport terminal building less than a thousand yards away from where I was shooting.




As it passed by I couldn't help but think of Rick (and admittedly choked up - just a bit) when this magnificent technological achievement rolled by me on the taxi-way less than sixty feet away.

I don't have words to describe the feelings.

After the double-decker dynamic-duo roared back into the sky (the very same sky that had claimed Columbia and Rick Husband) i heard over my scanning radio - a short quiet phrase - transmitted by the pilot of the 747 that couldn't help but make me a bit misty.

"We miss you Rick." I heard on 319.150 MHz.

Soon the shuttle will be retired and relegated to history.

That will be another sad day for me, but today wasn't. it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

Special thanks to my brother Paul, Daryl, the two Michaels, and my source at NASA who alerted me (way in advance) which made everything possible.


-Steve Douglass

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I saw a spaceship today. Space Shuttle lands in Amarillo





Click to enlarge:


















Just a few photographs from today's Space Shuttle/747 ferry flight after it landed at Rick Husband today. It was an breath-taking sight. I'll post more later.

Thanks to everyone for making it possible to get this close to a real spaceship.

-Steve Douglass
ALL PHOTOS (C) STEVE DOUGLASS


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hot damn!


Space shuttle Discovery was carefully placed atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier during mating operations in preparation for its ferry flight from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)

Improving weather conditions over the south and southeastern portions of the United States have led NASA managers to approve beginning space shuttle Discovery’s ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday morning.

Discovery, mounted atop its modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, is slated to lift off Edwards’ main runway 04R at about 6:20 a.m. Sunday, or about 20 minutes before sunrise, on the first leg of the ferry flight. The 747-shuttle combo is scheduled to make a refueling stop at Rick Husband International Airport in Amarillo, Texas, and one other intermediate stop before reaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., Sunday evening, and then continue on from Barksdale to Kennedy Monday morning.

United Space Alliance technicians and NASA personnel at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards finished preparations for the 2,500 mile ferry flight overnight Friday.

Although Edwards Air Force Base will not be open to the public for viewing of the shuttle /747 combo’s departure, good viewing is possible from a position along 20 Mule Team Road a few miles west of the town of Boron immediately north of the base’s northern boundary.

AVWK: Skunk works Unveils MQX Details




Posted by Graham Warwick

Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has unveiled a concept for the US Air Force's planned MQ-X follow-on to its MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. It's stealthy, as one would expect from the Skunks, and it's modular, which is the USAF's watchword for future unmanned aircraft, And it has a couple of unusual features.


Concept: Lockheed Martin

The propulsion system is a hybrid: a pair of jet engines for high transit and dash speed, and a turbo-diesel driving a propeller for longer, lower-speed loiter. Used together, the engines can push the UAV to higher altitudes so it can bridge the gap between the medium-altitude Reaper and high-altitude Global Hawk.

The 300hp-class turbo-diesel engine is housed in the pod on top of the central fin, which is there so the propeller can be mounted high between the V tails to shield it from radar.

The fuselage is F-22/F-35-sized, with internal sensor and weapons bays, and is designed to take mission-specific modular wings. A shorter wing would be fitted for the medium-altitude hunter/killer role, providing higher speed at the expense of endurance, which would be around 20-30h at 20,000-25,000ft. A longer wing would boost altitude capability to above 40,000ft and endurance beyond 40h for more-persistent ISR missions.

The USAF is putting the finishing touches to its requirements for MQ-X, so we should know more soon. Meanwhile, the Skunks' design may look familiar to some Ares readers, as something very similar appeared on a Raytheon briefing chart at the Paris air show. I haven't got to the bottom of that.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shuttle ferry delayed again.


Space shuttle Discovery was carefully placed atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier during mating operations in preparation for its ferry flight from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA photo / Tony Landis)

Dynamic weather over the southern and eastern portions of the United States will keep space shuttle Discovery at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., at least through Saturday. NASA ferry flight managers and flight crews are now looking to begin the 2,500-mile cross-country trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than early Sunday morning, Sept. 20.

Managers decided Friday that a slow-moving low-pressure weather system over northeast Texas that has been influencing weather across the southeast was too dynamic and unstable to try to begin the flight Saturday. They will meet again with flight crews and the weather team Saturday at NASA Dryden to discuss a possible Sunday morning departure and decide the best route to get Discovery back to Kennedy within two days, weather permitting.

CNN) -- A terror plot that came to light this week following raids in New York may have been targeting a major transportation center, sources close to the investigation told CNN on Thursday.

A lawyer for Najibullah Zazi disputed claims that bomb-making plans were found on his client's computer.

There was planning and preparation for an attack, presumably in the New York area, where there would be a large number of people and where security screening is lax such as a large railroad or subway station, essentially where there is no airport-style screening, the sources said.

Authorities are taking the plot seriously, because, the sources said, they think it involves "real-deal terrorists" operating and planning an attack in America.

Because of that fear, an unprecedented level of resources is being devoted to the investigation, the sources said. That includes the placement of a hostage rescue team in New York for possible raids and the deployment of additional resources to the Denver area in Colorado, where another phase of the probe is taking place.

The federal terrorism probe emerged Monday with a series of raids in the New York borough of Queens.

A former counterterrorism official who has been briefed on the investigation said bomb instructions were found, but could not say where.

The former official said backpacks, computers and maps were found during the searches in New York, and field tests turned up positive for explosives. But initial tests often yield false positives, and the former official was unaware whether more definitive tests had been concluded.

The backpacks support a theory that an attack similar to the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Spain, was being planned.

The Madrid bombings -- coordinated attacks on four morning-rush commuter trains -- killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

A 24-year-old Colorado resident is at the center of the probe and met Thursday with FBI agents in Denver for a second day as his lawyer disputed a report that bomb-making plans were found on the man's computer. Watch why Colorado man is being questioned by authorities »

Federal agents searched Najibullah Zazi's apartment and another home in the same Denver suburb on Wednesday in connection with the terrorism investigation. A law enforcement official told CNN that diagrams showing how to make bombs were found on the computer that Zazi had with him when he was stopped in New York during a recent visit, but his lawyer, Arthur Folsom, dismissed that allegation.

"There's no diagram of a bomb. There's no information like that," Folsom told reporters as he walked his client to his second meeting with federal agents. If something like that had turned up on Zazi's computer, he asked, "Do you really think the FBI would have allowed us to walk out of here last night?"

Zazi, an Afghan national, gave writing, fingerprint and DNA samples to FBI agents Wednesday during a "very friendly, very cordial" interview, Folsom said. He said Zazi has no ties to terrorism, and he thinks his client drew investigators' attention "because he stayed at a house owned by an old friend of his who was under observation from the FBI."

According to law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation, the Colorado searches were part of a probe that began with Zazi and led to New York.

Zazi has driven limousines for First ABC Transportation in suburban Aurora, near Denver International Airport, for about six months, according to a worker who answered the phone at the company.

The man, who identified himself only as "Joe," said he was startled to hear Zazi was under investigation. He said Zazi was a hard-working man who was single-handedly supporting his family.

"He is a young, nerdy, kind of good kid -- nothing to do with religious or anything," the man said. "He is a kid."

Joe said co-workers called Zazi "the bearded one" in a lighthearted way. When he heard that Zazi might be associated with a bomb plot, he said, "I was literally laughing."

"I agree with his lawyer he has nothing to do with that kind of stuff. His character is much better than that," Joe said.

The case began with a New York police informant, with authorized FBI wiretaps used to further develop the case, the former counterterrorism official said. Agents launched the raids after police stopped Zazi on the George Washington Bridge during a recent visit to New York, raising concerns that he would figure out he was under surveillance, the former official told CNN.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Colorado man questioned in terror probe.

DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- A Colorado resident at the center of a federal terrorism probe met with FBI agents for a second day Thursday as his lawyer disputed a report that bomb-making plans were found on the man's computer.


FBI agents search the apartment of Naijbullah Zazi on Wednesday in connection with a terror investigation.

Federal agents searched Najibullah Zazi's apartment and another home in the same Denver suburb on Wednesday in connection with the terrorism probe, which emerged Monday with a series of raids in the New York borough of Queens. A law enforcement official told CNN that diagrams showing how to make bombs were found on the computer Zazi had with him when he was stopped in New York during a recent visit, but his lawyer, Arthur Folsom, dismissed that allegation.

"There's no diagram of a bomb. There's no information like that," Folsom told reporters as he walked his client to his second meeting with federal agents. If something like that had turned up on Zazi's computer, he said, "Do you really think the FBI would have allowed us to walk out of here last night?"

Zazi, an Afghan national, gave writing, fingerprint and DNA samples to FBI agents Wednesday during a "very friendly, very cordial" interview, Folsom said. He said Zazi has no ties to terrorism, and he believes his client drew investigators' attention "because he stayed at a house owned by an old friend of his who was under observation from the FBI."

A former counterterrorism official briefed on the investigation also said bomb instructions were found, but could not say where. The former official said backpacks, computers and maps were found during the searches in New York, and field tests turned up positive for explosives. But initial tests often yield false positives, and the former official was unaware whether more definitive tests had been concluded.

The case began with a New York police informant, with authorized FBI wiretaps used to further develop the case, the former counterterrorism official said. Agents launched the raids after police stopped Zazi on the George Washington Bridge during a recent visit to New York, raising concerns that he would figure out he was under surveillance, the former official told CNN.

Wednesday, Folsom said Zazi stayed in one of the apartments that was raided after he drove to New York from Denver to sort out a business issue. Sources close to the investigation told CNN that the Queens raids were spurred by a confluence of events in the city -- including the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session and President Obama's Wall Street speech on Monday.

It's believed to be the first time Afghan nationals are suspected of possible involvement in an alleged terror plot targeting the United States. But FBI director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee Wednesday that he did not believe the investigation had revealed any "imminent danger."

Shuttle ferry no earlier than Saturday

Space Shuttle Discovery's ferry flight from Edwards Air Force Base to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been postponed by at least a day due to weather conditions.

After a Flight Readiness Review Thursday, NASA managers advised that they expect Discovery to be ready to begin the ferry flight by late Friday morning. However, high temperatures at Edwards and stormy weather over the south and southeast portions of the country led them to hold off on having Discovery depart Edwards to no earlier than early Saturday morning, Sept. 19. They plan to meet again with meteorologists and the flight crews at mid-day Friday at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center to discuss whether to aim for a Saturday takeoff, or to postpone the ferry flight further.

Ferry Flight Preps Ahead of Schedule



Discovery’s Ferry Preparations Move Ahead; Friday Departure Possible09.17.09

Preparation of the Space Shuttle Discovery for its ferry flight back to Florida is still running slightly ahead of schedule at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California, and managers expect that preparations will be complete and Discovery will be ready to begin its cross-country ferry flight to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a modified Boeing 747 by Friday morning, Sept. 18.

The final date and projected time for Discovery’s departure from Edwards will be determined at a Flight Readiness Review, currently slated for Thursday afternoon.

On Wednesday, United Space Alliance technicians completed draining of water from the Power Reactant Storage and Distribution System fuel cells, installation of the drag chute ferry door, and installation of the tail cone attach point fittings. Installation of the tail cone over the main engine rocket nozzles, which reduces the shuttle’s aerodynamic drag during the ferry flight, is in work Thursday. Once that is complete, technicians will focus on several operations such as raising the landing gear and control surfaces requiring powering up Discovery’s hydraulic systems.

Mating of Discovery to the modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is then expected to get under way late Thursday.

If departure occurs Friday morning, the 747-shuttle combo could arrive at the Kennedy Space Center as early as late Saturday, Sept. 19, weather and other factors permitting.

Someone at Nasa has a sense of humor ...

Big bird scares little bird.


My apartment complex got buzzed by an V-22 Osprey again and I just love it. I don't know if it is on purpose or not, but I'd like to think so.

This time he alarmed this pigeon who couldn't get away fast enough.

MV-22 guys:

For future reference:

Long: 101.53.19
Lat: 35.10.00

Heads up on 123.100 MHz

-Steve Douglass

Shuttle ferry update


Preparation of the Space Shuttle Discovery for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is running ahead of schedule at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California, and managers expect that Discovery will be ready to begin its cross-country ferry flight atop a modified Boeing 747 by Friday morning, Sept. 18.

3 arrested for rocket attack during Biden visit

3 arrested for rocket attack during Biden visit

By David Rising - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Sep 16, 2009 8:02:25 EDT

BAGHDAD — U.S.-Iraqi forces arrested three militants suspected of firing rockets at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where visiting Vice President Joe Biden was spending the night, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The rockets hit in the Green Zone on Tuesday evening, killing two Iraqi civilians, soon after Biden had retired for the night following meetings with American officials on the first day of his visit to Iraq.

A joint rapid-reaction force raided the launching site and, after coming under small arms fire, arrested three Iraqis along with three rocket rails believed to have been used to fire the shells, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The military did not identify the men.

An Iraqi military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the three men were picked up on the outskirts of the main Shiite district of Sadr City and are believed to be Shiite militants who broke away from anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s now dissolved Mahdi Army.

Shiite militants in the past have frequently fired rockets and mortars at the Green Zone, a district along the Tigris River where Iraqi government offices and the U.S. Embassy are located.

However, a Sunni insurgent group, the Mujahideen Army, also claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Wednesday on Islamic militant Web sites, saying the rocket-fire was “a reception for Biden, the head of infidelity.” The authenticity of the claim could not be confirmed.

The U.S. military said three 107mm rockets impacted around the Green Zone in Tuesday’s attacks, while Iraqi police say a fourth rocket fell short and hit a residential building, killing two and injuring five others. The shells were initially identified as mortars on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Biden was meeting with a broad spectrum of Iraqi officials in Baghdad, trying to help smooth political differences as the American military moves ahead with plans to pull troops out of the country.

He held talks first with parliament speaker Ayad al-Sammaraie, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country’s largest Sunni political party.

The two sides discussed developments in the country’s national reconciliation efforts with former Saddam loyalists and other Iraqi internal issues, al-Sammaraie’s spokesman Omar al-Mashhadani told The AP. He gave no further details.

The American vice president was also meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and Sunni leaders including Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi ahead of meetings with Kurdish officials on Thursday.

Over his three-day visit, Biden’s main focus was expected to be plans for January elections and the ongoing violence in Iraq’s north. As the number of bombings and other attacks declines elsewhere in Iraq, the north remains a battleground between Sunni Arab extremists and Iraqi and U.S. forces. Kurdish-Arab tension there also frequently flares into violence.

“The whole purpose is to see how we can be helpful, if we can, in helping them resolve the outstanding political issues they have to resolve internally, so that when the (security agreement) is fully implemented we leave a stable Iraq,” he told reporters late Tuesday after meeting with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill.

The U.S.-Iraqi security agreement calls for the withdrawal of American combat forces by the end of August, 2010 and of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Biden said that Odierno was optimistic that the readiness of Iraqi forces would allow the U.S. military to withdraw all combat forces next year according to plan, and then proceed with pulling out the remaining 50,000 troops by the end of the following year. There are now about 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Biden made his last visit to the country on July 4 to spend U.S. Independence Day with the troops. During that trip he also met with his son, Beau, who is an Army captain serving in Iraq.

Somali al-Qaida group confirms death of leader


Somali al-Qaida group confirms death of leader: "CAIRO — A Somalia-based al-Qaida group acknowledged for the first time that U.S. commandos killed one of its senior leaders but vowed to fight on in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site Wednesday.The man was killed along with other fighters in a daring daylight raid by U.S. special forces in southern Somalia on Monday.

The group, the Al-Shabab Mujahideen Movement, confirmed the death of ‘sheik commander’ Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of other militants. U.S. officials have said a total of six people were killed in the strike.American authorities have described the 30-year-old Kenyan as one of the most wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region. He was wanted for involvement in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 250 people, as well as the attempted downing of an Israeli airliner and a car bombing at a beach resort in Kenya in 2002.

Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the hotel blast.Several past attempts to kill him failed, including one in March 2008 in which the U.S. Navy fired two Tomahawk missiles from a submarine into a southern Somali town.U.S. officials on Tuesday described a long wait for the right opportunity to try again.

Monday’s raid involved elite Navy SEALs in Army assault helicopters launched from U.S. warships off the Somali coast.The group’s statement said six U.S. helicopters took part in the attack on Nabhan and his comrades, who were traveling in a car. Two of the helicopters landed and troops exchanged fire with the fighters, all of whom were killed, before ‘the enemy hurried to the site, collecting the bodies of the brothers,’ according to the statement.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it was posted on an Islamic Web site that regularly carries statements from al-Qaida and other militant groups.The insurgent group said the loss of its leader will not affect its determination to continue fighting and vowed to avenge his death.U.S. officials have become increasingly concerned that al-Qaida insurgents are moving out of safe havens along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and into Somalia’s anarchic expanses, exploiting the lack of an effective central government to train and mobilize recruits without interference."



(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Obama scrapping missile defense shield


New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to announce on Thursday that it will scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles, according to people familiar with the plans.

President Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern Europe or Turkey, according to those familiar with the plans.

The announcement, to be made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was first appointed by Mr. Bush, amounts to one of the biggest national security reversals by the new administration, one that will aggravate Czech and Polish allies and possibly please Russia, which has adamantly objected to the Bush system. But administration officials stressed that they are not abandoning missile defense, only redesigning it to meet the more immediate Iranian threat.

“The way forward enhances our homeland defense and protects our forces abroad as well as our European allies,” said an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the announcement by Mr. Gates. “Our review has been driven by an updated intelligence assessment of Iran’s missile programs and new advances in our missile defense capabilities and technologies.”

Administration officials said the Bush missile defense architecture was better designed to counter potential long-range missiles by Iran, but recent tests and intelligence have indicated that Tehran is moving more rapidly toward developing short- and medium-range missiles. Mr. Obama’s advisers said their reconfigured system would be more aimed at that threat by stationing interceptor missiles closer to Iran.

The Obama administration has begun briefing allies on the decision and the Czech prime minister confirmed that he received a phone call from Mr. Obama informing him of the plans.

A Polish diplomat said Warsaw was waiting to hear, but added that “it is clear that the administration has other priorities.”

Mr. Bush had developed a special relationship with Eastern Europe as relations between Washington and Moscow deteriorated. The proposal to deploy parts of the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic were justified on the grounds that they would protect Europe and the eastern coast of the United States against any possible missile attacks from Iran.

But the Polish and Czech governments saw the presence of U.S. military personnel based permanently in their countries as a protection against Russia. Moscow strongly opposed the shield and claimed it was targeted against Russia and undermined national security. The United States repeatedly denied such claims.

Mr. Obama’s advisers have said their changes to missile defense were motivated by the accelerating Iranian threat, not by Russian complaints. But the announcement comes just days before Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet privately with Russia’s President Dmitry A. Medvedev in New York on the sidelines of next week’s United Nations General Assembly session.

The administration maintains that the switch in the Bush plans does not indicate any diminishment of its relations with Poland and the Czech Republic. “The United States stands by its security commitments to its allies,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity


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