Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Secret NSA program "X-KEY SCORE" revealed by Snowden.

THE GUARDIAN: A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian's earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisasurveillance court oversight.
The files shed light on one of Snowden's most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA's "widest reaching" system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as theirmetadata.
Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity.
Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisawarrant only if the target of their surveillance is a 'US person', though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.
One training slide illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst's ability to query the databases at any time.

The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadataas well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a "selector" in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.
Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.
One document notes that this is because "strong selection [search by email address] itself gives us only a very limited capability" because "a large amount of time spent on the web is performing actions that are anonymous."
The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.
Analysts are warned that searching the full database for content will yield too many results to sift through. Instead they are advised to use themetadata also stored in the databases to narrow down what to review.
A slide entitled "plug-ins" in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes "every email address seen in a session by both username and domain", "every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)" and user activity – "the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc".

Email monitoring

In a second Guardian interview in June, Snowden elaborated on his statement about being able to read any individual's email if he had their email address. He said the claim was based in part on the email search capabilities of XKeyscore, which Snowden says he was authorized to use while working as a Booz Allen contractor for the NSA.
One top-secret document describes how the program "searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents", including the "To, From, CC, BCC lines" and the 'Contact Us' pages on websites".
To search for emails, an analyst using XKS enters the individual's email address into a simple online search form, along with the "justification" for the search and the time period for which the emails are sought.

Monday, July 29, 2013

LEAP jet engine is so hot - it's classified - sets new temperature record!

DAYTON, Ohio — A GE Aviation jet engine test recorded the highest temperatures in history for a jet engine, the Evendale company said Monday. The jet engine maker tested an engine core for a potential military combat engine. The test was part of a research and development program in partnership with the U.S. Air Force.

Temperatures in the test exceeded the target by 130 degrees Fahrenheit, demonstrating the highest combination of compressor and turbine temperatures ever recorded in aviation history, GE Aviation said.
The actual temperature reached is classified information, said Matt Benvie, spokesman for GE Aviation.
GE Aviation conducted the test in February this year, Benvie said. The information is being publicly released now after getting security clearance.
The entire engine test ran for 60 total hours. The turbine fan ran during the test for two hours above state-of-the art temperatures. And the engine was tested for 85 minutes above the goal temperature, Benvie said.
The technology is unprecedented, Benvie said.

“If you can go over a target temperature while still having the hardware perform well, there’s a lot of margin in terms of the durability of the engine,” he said. And “if you run an engine hotter, you’re able to extract more energy from the fuel.”
Based on the test’s success, conducted in Evendale, in Hamilton County, the first full adaptive cycle engine test is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2013 in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.
The new military engine in development uses the company’s proven commercial engine technologies: the next-generation LEAP high-pressure compressor; heat-resistant ceramic matrix composites in the combustor and high-pressure turbine; and additive (3-D) manufactured components that result in a 25 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, a 30 percent increase in aircraft operating range and a 5-to-10 percent improvement in thrust compared to today’s most advanced military combat engines, GE Aviation said.
The LEAP engine is a product of the joint venture CFM International between GE and French company Snecma. LEAP will be GE Aviation’s next big commercial product to enter service in 2016, and the first commercial engine to contain ceramic matrix composite parts.
The record-setting engine test was for the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology program in partnership with the U.S. Air Force. The full test of the adaptive cycle engine draws the program to close. Following completion of full engine testing, GE will continue developing adaptive cycle technology through the Air Force’s Adaptive Engine Technology Development program, which is scheduled to conclude in 2016 following fan rig testing and a core engine test.
“The engine hardware is in excellent condition, even with operation above the target temperatures. We are pleased with the core test results and look forward to continuing the success with the full-engine adaptive cycle demonstration,” said Matt Meininger, Air Force Research Laboratory ADVENT program manager, during post-test hardware reviews at the GE Aviation plant in Evendale in a statement.

Friday, July 19, 2013

T-38 crashes near Shepard AFB- crew ejects.

7/19/2013 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A T-38 Talon crashed at approximately 6:48 am today just south of Sheppard AFB. 

It carried two people on board, a student pilot and instructor pilot. Both pilots ejected safely and one was taken to United Regional. 

The instructor pilot has been identified as Maj. Christopher Thompson and the student pilot at German 1st Lt. Julius Dressbach. 

An investigation into the accident is underway. The public is asked to cooperate with military and civilian authorities at the scene. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ARMY: Fort Bliss bunker possibly contaminated with radiation

FORT BLISS, Texas — Army and federal investigators have detected radiation in a former nuclear weapons bunker at Fort Bliss and are trying to determine if anyone or other buildings on the West Texas post may have been contaminated, officials said Tuesday.

A group of investigators from the Army, experts on nuclear and chemical weapons, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigations Weapons of Mass Destruction team arrived Tuesday to the desert area where the bunker is located. It sits along with other above-ground concrete storage facilities completely buried in dirt. A yellow and red sign warning of radiation danger could be seen on the steel doors of bunker 11507.

Fort Bliss spokesman Maj. Joe Buccino said epoxy paint was applied to the interior of the bunker years ago to contain the radioactivity, but that over the years the paint has become chipped, allowing the radioactive surface to become exposed.

Although further tests will determine the nature of the radiation Buccino said it originated most likely from uranium of the “old unsealed nuclear weapons” that used to be handled in the bunker.

Buccino said the levels of radiation are low and that the contamination is contained to the immediate area where the bunker is located. He said the closest residential neighborhood is about one mile away and that area residents are safe.

The epoxy paint chips “could have come loose and if you ingest them that’s the concern, they couldn’t have come loose and then gone into the El Paso community, they don’t travel that far”.

However, he said, they will know more once the Army Environmental Command finishes its report. He did not offer an estimate as to when that report might be finished but hinted that “the investigation is in its infancy.”

Rifles and other weaponry have been stored in the bunker since 2003, but Buccino said it’s unlikely that soldiers who used the equipment are contaminated as a result. About 30 people who regularly work in the bunker taking inventory and conducting other tasks were being tested for radioactive contamination.

All personnel that have been working in the bunker, about 30 people, including contractors, civilian employees and service members have been notified of the risk. It was not immediately clear how many people over the past decade were exposed to the radiation.

Panama seizes DPRK ship carrying Fan Song Missile System

The Panamanian authorities impounded a rusting North Korean freighter on a voyage from Cuba toward the Panama Canal and back to its home country, and said the ship was carrying missile system components cloaked in a cargo of sugar. The arms would appear to represent a significant violation of United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea.

President Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, who announced the seizure late Monday in a radio interview, posted a photograph in a Twitter message of what he described as “sophisticated missile equipment” found in the cargo hold of the vessel, the 450-foot Chong Chon Gang, a 36-year-old freighter that has rarely plied the waters of the Western Hemisphere.

Mr. Martinelli and other Panamanian officials said the vessel’s 35 crew members were taken into custody after they resisted efforts to redirect the vessel to the Panamanian port of Manzanillo, at the Atlantic end of the canal, and that the captain tried to commit suicide after the ship was detained. The captain’s condition was unclear.

The president said the ship would undergo a thorough inspection to look for any more contraband. “We’re going to keep unloading the ship and figure out exactly what was inside,” he said. “You cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal.”

José Raúl Mulino, Panama’s minister of security, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the suspect cargo had been found in two containers and that “evidently, they are armaments.” Mr. Mulino said all the sugar sacks aboard would be removed before the ship could be completely investigated.

The crew members were detained and taken to a naval base after they disconnected crane cables aboard their ship, in what Mr. Mulino called an act of “rebellion and sabotage.”

Mr. Martinelli said the ship had been stopped initially on suspicion of carrying narcotics. But it is unusual for Panama Canal authorities to detain or search any ship that is merely passing through the waterway and not stopping in Panama to load or unload cargo.

As of midday Tuesday there was no comment on the ship seizure by officials from either North Korea or Cuba. The two countries, known for their antipathy to the United States, have formed close bonds over the years, partly as a consequence of an American-led effort to ostracize them internationally, North Korea in particular.

The United Nations has imposed broad sanctions on North Korea that seek to curtail its ability to export and import weaponry, particularly missile components and technology. Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted a general in Myanmar, Thein Htay, for buying military goods from North Korea.

American officials say North Korea’s arms trade has helped finance the country’s nuclear and missile ambitions. In February, the North carried out its third nuclear test, a detonation that led to a tightened round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations and supported by North Korea’s longtime ally and benefactor, China.

The seizure comes as Panama and South Korea, the North’s sworn enemy, have been strengthening ties and exploring a possible free trade agreement.

At the same time, North Korea and Cuba have been further strengthening ties as well. Two weeks ago the North Korean armed forces chief of staff, Kim Kyok-sik, visited Cuba and met with President Raul Castro, Cuban news media reported. Such a visit by a high-ranking North Korea official like Mr. Kim did not go unnoticed elsewhere.

“There are very few states where the North Korean chief of staff is welcomed for a high-level meeting,” Hugh Griffiths, an international arms trafficking expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Griffiths said that against the context of Mr. Kim’s visit to Cuba, a seizure of arms on a North Korean vessel that had recently departed from Cuba would not be entirely surprising.

Still, he said, it was unusual that this particular vessel was in the area. He said the ship’s itinerary history showed that it had spent most of its working life in Asian and European waters, and the last known time it had been to Panama was in 2002.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ethiopian Dreamliner catches fire at Heathrow - Boeing stock plunges.

LONDON -- A fire on an empty Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane forced Heathrow Airport to close both its runways Friday, suspending all arrivals and departures.

The airport said in a tweet that there were no passengers aboard the Ethiopian Airlines plane, and British police said the fire is being treated as unexplained. London's fire department said its firefighters were on standby to assist Heathrow's crews.

Television images showed nearly a dozen fire trucks on the scene and firefighters standing around the Ethiopian Airlines plane, which was parked on a remote stand.

Fire-retardant foam appeared to have been sprayed, but no damage to the plane was immediately apparent.

The incident is likely to heap more pressure on Boeing Co., which makes the Dreamliner.

The Dreamliner was grounded for three months earlier this year amid concerns about overheating lithium-ion batteries. Shares in Boeing have fallen more than 1.3 percent on the news.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

9-11 terrorist mastermind builds Top Secret vacuum cleaner for the CIA?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Confined to the basement of a CIA secret prison in Romania about a decade ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, asked his jailers whether he could embark on an unusual project: Would the spy agency allow Mohammed, who had earned his bachelor's in mechanical engineering, to design a vacuum cleaner?

The agency officer in charge of the prison called CIA headquarters and a manager approved the request, a former senior CIA official told The Associated Press.

Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA's harsh interrogation methods and had confessed to a career of atrocities. But the agency had no long-term plan for him. Someday, he might prove useful. Perhaps, he'd even stand trial one day.

And for that, he'd need to be sane.

"We didn't want them to go nuts," the former senior CIA official said, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the now-shuttered CIA prisons or Mohammed's interest in vacuums.

So, using schematics from the Internet as his guide, Mohammed began re-engineering one of the most mundane of household appliances.

That the CIA may be in possession of the world's most highly classified vacuum cleaner blueprints is but one peculiar, lasting byproduct of the controversial U.S. detention and interrogation program.

By the CIA's own account, the program's methods were "designed to psychologically 'dislocate'" people. But once interrogations stopped, the agency had to try to undo the psychological damage inflicted on the detainees.

The CIA apparently succeeded in keeping Mohammed sane. He appears to be in good health, according to military records.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

X-47B UCAS lands on aircraft carrier

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USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH, at sea (NNS) -- The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first-ever carrier-based arrested landing on board USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia July 10.

"It isn't very often you get a glimpse of the future. Today, those of us aboard USS George H.W. Bush got that chance as we witnessed the X-47B make its first ever arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. "The operational unmanned aircraft soon to be developed have the opportunity to radically change the way presence and combat power are delivered from our aircraft carriers."

Today's demonstration was the first time a tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft landed on a modern aircraft carrier.

This test marks an historic event for naval aviation that Navy leaders believe will impact the way the Navy integrates manned and unmanned aircraft on the carrier flight deck in the future.

In May 2013, the X-47B successfully completed underway carrier deck operations aboard USS George H. W. Bush to include a first-ever catapult launch and nine touch-and-gos.

"We have certainly come a long way in the 102 years since Eugene Ely made the first arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier. Naval aviators have always been at the forefront of operational and tactical innovation, and today was no exception," said Mabus. "People make unmanned aviation possible and it is people who will provide the fresh thinking and new ideas so crucial to successes like the X-47B program and the unmanned aircraft of the future."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Breaking: Asiana 777 crash-lands at SFO

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USA TODAY: An Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul crashed on landing at San Francisco's airport Saturday, forcing passengers to escape the aircraft using inflatable emergency exit slides.

Passengers who got off the plane told reporters they did not believe there were any fatalities. Images from the scene showed smoke billowing from the plane and emergency exits open from the plane's fuselage, with the tail separated from the aircraft. Gaping holes could be seen in the roof of the plane's body, blackened by fire.

The plane was a Boeing 777, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said. It crashed on runway 28L at San Francisco International Airport, he said.

There were 291 people aboard, KCBS radio reported.

The wreckage was sprayed with white fire retardant.

Laura Brown, spokeswoman for the FAA in Washington, said Asiana Flight 214 from Seoul was attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport when it crashed.

"All we know is that a foreign airline, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 arriving from Seoul, South Korea, crashed while landing,'' she said. "That's all I've got right now.

She said it appeared the plane crashed after touching down for a landing, although the sequence of events was not clear.

A passenger, David Eun, issued Tweets after the crash: "Fire and rescue people all over the place. They're evacuating the injured. Haven't felt this way since 9/11.''

Later, Eun Tweeted: "I'm fine. Most people are totally calm and trying to help. .. the majority of passengers seem OK.''

The National Transportation Safety Board was dispatching a team of crash investigators to the site.

A video clip posted to Youtube showed smoke coming from a silver-colored jet on the tarmac. Passengers could be seen jumping down the inflatable emergency slides. Images showed the the body of the plane largely intact but with severe fire damage.

The tail of the airplane was separated from the aircraft. Weather at the time was clear.

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