Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Breaking: Syrian Air Defense base possibly destroyed.

A Syrian air defense base near the coastal city of Latakia was reportedly destroyed Wednesday night, with multiple Syrian and Lebanese sources speculating that an Israeli strike from the Mediterranean was to blame.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a loud explosion in a Syrian army base, and Twitter users quoted eyewitnesses who said the blast occurred near Snobar Jableh, just south of the city.

More details soon.


A large explosion was heard at a Syrian army missile base in Latakia, foreign media reported Thursday.

Eye witnesses told the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights that the explosion took place near Snobar Jableh, south of the city.

It was not yet clear whether anyone was wounded in the strike.

Reports in July claimed that the Israeli air force struck a missile warehouse that serviced Russian and Syrian interests in the area. Later, American officials told the New York Times that the strike in July did not succeed in wiping out all of the targeted Russian land-sea missiles, and that Israel was therefore likely to strike again.

The official Lebanese news agency reported that Israeli aircrafts were sighted on multiple occasions Wednesday in the south of the country. According to the report, which was based on a press statement by the Lebanese army, the airplanes entered Lebanese airspace at around 1:40 P.M. and circled over various places before leaving over the Mediterranean Sea near Tripoli and Naqoura at 5 P.M.

A Facebook page run by Syrian rebels claimed that the strike occurred at around 7 P.M. According to the page, a missile was fired from the sea and struck the Syrian base but did not result in any casualties.

Israeli sources declined to comment on the reports.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mystery In New Mexico. Was it a crash of something black?

Yesterday afternoon (approximately 12:00 AM MDT) the USAF notified the FAA that a TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) box was needed over a remote area of Western New Mexico.

The text of the TFR HERE read:


On the surface it may indicate a crash of a military aircraft in the area and search and rescue efforts are underway, but what makes it unusual is that the TFR has been put in place for a full month. 

This may indicate that something either toxic or sensitive crashed in the area, with the possibilities ranging from a secret aircraft type, a satellite reentry or something carrying nuclear materials.

I talked to an air traffic controller who works at ZAB (under the conditions of anonymity) and he remarked that the USAF isn't giving out any information on why the TFR is in place except they requested that if any unauthorized civil aircraft violated the airspace they wanted to be notified of type and tail and the ultimate destination.

The TFR is in a very remote area and not very accessible to the public but it is in the middle of the RESERVE MOA and several military training routes go right through that area. It also isn't far from the White Sands Missile Range to the SE.

Searches on the Internet can find no reports of crashed aircraft or incident reports coming out of the area and inquiries by the press are not being answered. If it's an SAR exercise - why is the USAF not talking? If it's something innocuous - as it may turn out to be- why not just say so?

In light of that, and with the rising interest by the mainstream press, expect the USAF to issue a press release soon.

Whether it's the truth or tantamount to being the modern day equivalent of a "crashed weather balloon" story is yet to be seen.

Nothing to see here - go back to your homes.

Stay tuned - more on this story as it unfolds.

-Steve Douglass 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wash Post: NSA harvesting hundreds of millions contact lists from e-mail and instant messaging

Washington Post:

The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.

Rather than targeting individual users, the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world’s e-mail and instant messaging accounts. Analysis of that data enables the agency to search for hidden connections and to map relationships within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets.

During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation

Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.

Each day, the presentation said, the NSA collects contacts from an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the inbox displays of Web-based e-mail accounts.

The collection depends on secret arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services in control of facilities that direct traffic along the Internet’s main data routes.

Although the collection takes place overseas, two senior U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that it sweeps in the contacts of many Americans. They declined to offer an estimate but did not dispute that the number is likely to be in the millions or tens of millions.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, said the agency “is focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers. We are not interested in personal information about ordinary Americans.”

The spokesman, Shawn Turner, added that rules approved by the attorney general require the NSA to “minimize the acquisition, use and dissemination” of information that identifies a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

The NSA’s collection of nearly all U.S. call records, under a separate program, has generated significant controversy since it was revealed in June. The NSA’s director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, has defended “bulk” collection as an essential counterterrorism and foreign intelligence tool, saying, “You need the haystack to find the needle.”

Contact lists stored online provide the NSA with far richer sources of data than call records alone. Address books commonly include not only names and e-mail addresses, but also telephone numbers, street addresses, and business and family information. Inbox listings of e-mail accounts stored in the “cloud” sometimes contain content, such as the first few lines of a message.

Libyan terror suspect now in custody in U.S.

A Libyan terrorist suspect who was held aboard a U.S. warship is now in the United States, CBS News has confirmed.
The al Qaeda suspect, known as Abu Anas al-Libi, has been under federal indictment in New York for more than a decade. He's expected to stand trial over whether he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.
U.S. special operations forces snatched Al-Libi during a raid in Libya on Oct. 5.
His full name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai and he used to be on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list. His family says he was not in al Qaeda.
Last week, Islamic militants in Libya vowed to avenge the arrest of Al-Libi by U.S. Special Forces.
In a statement posted to several online portals frequently used by jihadi groups operating in eastern Libya -- including Ansar al-Sharia, which is believed to have been involved in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic posts in Benghazi which left Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans dead -- the militants vowed to "strike back" at those responsible for the kidnapping.
While acknowledging that U.S. troops carried out the raid to apprehend al-Libi, the statement suggested reprisals would target the Libyan government, or, "those who betrayed their country and got implicated in this conspiracy."

Friday, October 11, 2013

US forces capture PAK Taliban commander - Karzai not happy

BBC: US forces have captured a senior Pakistan Taliban commander, Latif Mehsud, in a military operation, the state department has confirmed.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf described Latif Mehsud as a "terrorist leader" and a "senior commander" in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

She gave no details of the operation.

She said he was a close confidante of the group's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who this week gave a rare interview to the BBC about possible peace talks.

Ms Harf said the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) were held responsible for the attempted bombing of Times Square in 2010, as well as attacks on US diplomats in Pakistan and many Pakistani civilians.

The group "had also vowed to attack the US homeland again," Ms Harf said.

An Afghan provincial official earlier told Associated Press news agency that Latif Mehsud was arrested as he was driving on a highway in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province.

The arrest took place about a week ago, the official said.

Latif Mehsud was reportedly returning from a meeting to discuss swapping prisoners.

The Washington Post said that US forces had taken him from Afghan intelligence agents who were trying to recruit him as a go-between for peace talks.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, Aimal Faizi, told the Post: "The Americans forcibly removed him and took him to Bagram."

Mr Faizi said Latif Mehsud had only agreed to meet Afghan operatives after months of negotiations.

Some reports say Mr Karzai, who is currently holding talks with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry, was furious about the US operation.Arsallah Jamal, governor of Logar province in eastern Afghanistan, said Mehsud was captured a week ago as he was driving along a main highway in Mohammad Agha district. The road links the province with the Afghan capital, Kabul. Jamal said Mehsud was in a car with two or three other men when the U.S. military arrested him.

The Pakistani Taliban confirmed the capture but claimed Mehsud was seized Oct. 5 by the Afghan army at the Ghulam Khan border crossing in the eastern province of Khost.

He was returning from a meeting to discuss swapping Afghan prisoners for money, said Pakistani Taliban commanders and intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

The Pakistani intelligence officials said American forces seized Mehsud while he was with the Afghan army, and that they no longer know where he is.

Mehsud, believed to be around 30 years old, once served as Hakimullah Mehsud's driver but eventually became a trusted deputy. The two are not related. Mehsud is a common name in the region.

The U.S. military in Kabul referred all questions to the Defense Department in Washington. A Pentagon spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, said the Pentagon had no comment on the report.

A U.S. defense official said Mehsud was being lawfully held by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. A senior U.S. official said the arrest did not please Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who apparently saw it as a violation of Afghan sovereignty. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the issue with the media.

A spokesman for Karzai told the Washington Post that a senior Taliban commander was captured in Logar as he was being driven to a facility operated by the intelligence service for questioning. The spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said the commander, whom he did not name, was then taken to an American detention facility in Bagram.

There was no immediate comment from Karzai's office on the report.

The detention may have contributed to a series of emotional outbursts this week by Karzai, who alleged that the U.S. and NATO have inflicted suffering on the Afghan people and repeatedly have violated its sovereignty.

There were reports that talks over the past two weeks on a bilateral security agreement were delayed because of the incident. American and Afghan officials have been meeting in recent days to negotiate the final details of the deal.


2009 suspicions about Snowden slipped through the cracks ...

NYTIMES: WASHINGTON — Just as Edward J. Snowden was preparing to leave Geneva and a job as a C.I.A. technician in 2009, his supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion,

The C.I.A. suspected that Mr. Snowden was trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access, and decided to send him home, according to two senior American officials.

But the red flags went unheeded. Mr. Snowden left the C.I.A. to become a contractor for the National Security Agency, and four years later he leaked thousands of classified documents. The supervisor’s cautionary note and the C.I.A.’s suspicions apparently were not forwarded to the N.S.A. or its contractors, and surfaced only after federal investigators began scrutinizing Mr. Snowden’s record once the documents began spilling out, intelligence and law enforcement officials said.

“It slipped through the cracks,” one veteran law enforcement official said of the report.

Spokesmen for the C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. all declined to comment on the precise nature of the warning and why it was not forwarded, citing the investigation into Mr. Snowden’s activities.

Half a dozen law enforcement, intelligence and Congressional officials with direct knowledge of the supervisor’s report were contacted for this article. All of the officials agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing criminal investigation.

In hindsight, officials said, the report by the C.I.A. supervisor and the agency’s suspicions might have been the first serious warnings of the disclosures to come, and the biggest missed opportunity to review Mr. Snowden’s top-secret clearance or at least put his future work at the N.S.A. under much greater scrutiny.

“The weakness of the system was if derogatory information came in, he could still keep his security clearance and move to another job, and the information wasn’t passed on,” said a Republican lawmaker who has been briefed on Mr. Snowden’s activities.

Mr. Snowden now lives in Moscow, where he surfaced this week for the first time since receiving temporary asylum from the Russian government over the summer. On Wednesday night, he met with four American whistle-blowers who have championed his case in the United States and who presented him with an award they said was given annually by a group of retired C.I.A. officers to members of the intelligence community “who exhibit integrity in intelligence.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NSA data center suffers from electrical glitches ..

The Army Corps of Engineers says it has found electrical problems at the National Security Agency's $1.7 billion data center in Utah that could delay the new facility's long-awaited opening this fall.
The data center is filled with super-powered computers designed to store massive amounts of information gathered secretly from phone calls and emails. When it opens, the facility will be the NSA's largest data storage center in the U.S., constantly using 65 megawatts of power - enough to power 33,000 houses.
What exactly will be happening inside the center has been shrouded in mystery. There is no visible marker bearing the facility's name and operator, and the NSA has been tight-lipped about what they'll be doing there.
The Army Corps of Engineers discovered the problem during tests ahead of the scheduled Oct. 1 opening of the facility south of Salt Lake City, on a National Guard base, Corps spokeswoman Diedra Cordell said in an emailed statement.
The Corps, which is in charge of construction, says experts are working to correct it. Cordell did not provide details about the exact nature of the electrical problem, or say if it has caused any major damage.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines acknowledged the problem in an email but declined to provide any more information.
"The failures that occurred during testing have been mitigated," Vines said in a statement. "A project of this magnitude requires stringent management, oversight, and testing before the government accepts any building."
The problems were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The Army Corps also found an air flow problem with the generators that they are working to fix, Cordell said. The agency is working to complete its final inspection of the center before handing it over, she said.
NSA officials have said the agency chose the Utah location over 37 others because electricity is cheaper here, and because it was easier to buy enough land to build the center's long, squat buildings that span 1.5 million square feet. The center sits on a hill in Bluffdale, a community of about 8,000 people 25 miles south of Salt Lake City that is known for its rodeo and annual Old West Days.
The utility that powers the data center said it determined the electrical problems are the fault of the NSA data center and not the power grid. The utility's engineers did a detailed analysis of their systems during the times the NSA reported problems, said Rocky Mountain Power spokesman David Eskelsen.
"It's something internal to the NSA system," Eskelsen told The Associated Press.

US Strategic Command commander - no long in command - sacked for illegal gambling

A US Navy admiral who oversees the nation's nuclear weapons forces has been sacked, a Navy spokesman has said.

Vice-Adm Tim Giardina, second-in-command of the US Strategic Command, is under investigation for illegal gambling activities.

He is accused of using counterfeit gambling chips in "a significant monetary amount" at an Iowa casino.

Adm Giardina was demoted to a two-star admiral and will be reassigned pending outcome of the inquiry.

On Wednesday, the Navy's top spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby announced the removal of Adm Giardina as the deputy in charge of the US Strategic Command.The case was referred to the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service after he first came to be suspected of the crime.

Adm Giardina, a career submarine officer, was suspended from duty on 3 September after the military launched an investigation into allegations he used counterfeit chips at a casino not far from his base in eastern Nebraska.

In September, Special Agent David Dales of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation told the Associated Press news agency "a significant monetary amount" was involved.

"We were able to detect this one pretty quickly and jump on it," he added.

It is unknown whether Adm Giardina's alleged actions at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, compromised national security or operations at Strategic Command.

Strategic Command, which oversees everything from America's land-based nuclear missiles to space operations governing military satellites, is located at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska.

Adm Giardina's demotion follows several other incidents affecting the US military's nuclear establishment.

In August, a nuclear missile unit at Malstrom Air Force base in Montana failed a safety and security inspection, after which a senior security officer was relieved of duty.

In May, it was reported that 17 officers in charge of maintaining nuclear missiles were sidelined over safety violations at Minot Air Force base in North Dakota.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Breaking: Capitol in lockdown/ Reports of shots fired.

The U.S. Capitol was in lockdown Thursday after shots were fired nearby and at least one police officer was reported injured.

“Shelter in place,” Capitol police officers responding to the crisis barked out.

The House, which had been in the midst of heated debates over how to end the government shutdown, immediately went into recess.

Members of Congress and their staffers scurried to their offices, closed the curtains, and locked themselves inside.

Meanwhile, a police helicopter carrying heavily armed officers landed on the Mall directly in front of the building who raced over to help.

There were unconfirmed reports that a suspect was in custody or has been shot.

The shots rang out near Constitution Ave., on the north side of the Capitol.

“I heard three distinct booms,” NBC correspondent Luke Russert reported.

From inside the Senate Press Gallery, which has windows facing in that direction, frightened tourists could be seen running near the Supreme Court on 1st Street.

UPDATE: The shooting unfolded after police chased a black car up Constitution Avenue toward the Capitol, said tourist Edmund Ofori-Attah, who walked toward the scene as the car stopped.

"Then I heard the gunfire" and hit the ground, he said.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told reporters he was walking from the Capitol to the Senate Russell Office Building across the street when he noticed several police officers driving fast up Constitution Avenue on motorcycles.

"Within seconds of that," Casey said, "we heard three, four, five pops," which he assumed were gunshots. He said police ordered Casey and nearby tourists to crouch behind a car for protection.

In about two minutes, he said, the officers moved everyone into the Capitol.

FBI agents rushed to the scene and Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said: "There are reports of injuries."

After nearly an hour, police ended the lockdown.

The shooting comes two weeks after a mentally disturbed employee terrorized the Navy Yard with a shotgun, leaving 13 people dead including the gunman.

As a warning was sounded, the House abruptly went into recess and lawmakers left the chamber floor. The Senate also suspended business.

Before the disruption, lawmakers had been trying to find common ground to end a government shutdown. The House had just finished approving legislation aimed at partly lifting the government shutdown by paying National Guard and Reserve members.

People standing outside the Supreme Court across the street from Congress were hurried into the court building by authorities.

The White House also was briefly locked down after the incident at Capitol Hill and the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the compound was closed to pedestrians. Secret Service said the procedures were precautionary
Read more:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In honor of Tom Clancy ...

click here
I honor of the passing of man who inspired me to write military fiction, Tom Clancy, for next 24 hours I'm offering my e-book The Interceptor's Club & The Secret of the Black Manta -  absolutely free.

Use coupon code NR73M and you won't be charged a Red (October) cent.


PS: Be kind and leave me a review.

-Steve Douglass 


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