Category: national security

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal Is Reached

New York Times, By Jackie Calmes, October 5

Atlanta – The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.

But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.
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CIA looks to expand its cyber espionage capabilities

Washington Post, By Greg Miller, February 23

CIA Director John Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber-espionage capabilities as part of a broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work, current and former U.S. officials said.

The proposed shift reflects a determination that the CIA’s approach to conventional espionage is increasingly outmoded amid the exploding use of smartphones, social media and other technologies.

U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such as the Islamic State.

Several officials said Brennan’s team has even considered creating a new cyber-directorate — a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches, which have been pillars of the CIA’s organizational structure for decades.

Via emptywheel: After Failing at the White House, Then Illegally Hacking SSCI, Brennan Wants Cyber

Mapping the Blind Spots: Developer Unearths Secret U.S. Military Bases

Mashable, By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, December 13, 2013

If you look closely enough on Google or Bing Maps, some places are blanked out, hidden from public view. Many of those places disguise secret or sensitive American military facilities.

The United States military has a foothold in every corner of the world, with military bases on every continent. It’s not even clear how many there are out there. The Pentagon says there are around 5,000 in total, and 598 in foreign countries, but those numbers are disputed by the media.

But how do these facilities look from above? To answer that question, you first need to locate the bases. Which, as it turns out, is relatively easy.

That’s what Josh Begley, a data artist, found out when he embarked on a project to map all known U.S. military bases around the world, collect satellite pictures of them using Google Maps and Bing Maps, and display them all online.

A Climate of Unaccountability

They’re back!  John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney – the people who pushed the U.S. into the devastating mistake that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, have discovered yet another existential threat ready and able to destroy the world.  Back then it was Saddam Hussein and his mythical cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Now it is ISIS and its army of fanatical jihadists who are torturing, raping, crucifying, decapitating and genocidally killing anyone who stands in the way of the new caliphate they are building in what is left of the nations of Iraq and Syria.  It is precisely because there is a political, military, and economic vacuum in the heart of the Middle East that ISIS is able to thrive and expand.

The tragedy of American foreign policy is that the people who helped create that vacuum – who set into motion a war of aggression and choice – have never been held accountable for their mistake.  So here they are, this time doing the bidding of ISIS, spreading terror and fear into the hearts of the American people, priming the country for yet another war of aggression.  The foreign policy of these cheerleaders is encapsulated in one sentence, which ought to be carved on the tombstone of Bill Kristol, the man who said this: “What’s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?”   Continue reading

Republicans Suck

Would You Buy A Used Hostage From This Man?

Really:

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl can expect a buoyant homecoming after five years in Taliban hands, but those in the government who worked for his release face mounting questions over the prisoner swap that won his freedom.

Even in the first hours of Bergdahl’s handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate in Washington over whether the exchange will heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees — several senior Taliban figures among them — would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl’s health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action to secure his release. “Had we waited and lost him,” said national security adviser Susan Rice, “I don’t think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”

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Edward Snowden interview

For those of you who may have missed it, Edward Snowden granted an interview to Brian Williams of NBC TV. You can watch it here. Following the segment aired on television, there was an hour-long discussion on the net containing additional footage that failed to survive the cutting room. A brief piece of that footage can be seen here.

Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied on a Whole City

A sergeant in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department compared the experiment to Big Brother, even though he went ahead with it willingly. Is your city next?

The Atlantic, By Conor Friedersdorf, April 21

This is the future if nothing is done to stop it.

In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent a civilian aircraft* over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality.

Compton residents weren’t told about the spying, which happened in 2012. “We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he’s trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren’t watching in real time.

Maybe They’ll Finally Do SOMEthing

Trampling Through the Vineyards Where the Grapes of Rights Are Stored

The CIA searched computers intended to be used solely by the Senate Intelligence Committee in an apparent effort to determine how committee staff members gained access to a draft version of an internal agency review of its controversial interrogation program, U.S. officials said.

The action, some officials say, would mark the first time a U.S. intelligence agency has accessed congressional computers and would be an apparent violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

So the CIA finally decided that Senators are people, too?

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Federal security forces at the Super Bowl

MyFoxNy, By Matt Alvarez, January 28

Super Bowl XLVIII has been declared a level one national security event. Part of that security is to examine every item that is being brought in for Sunday’s big game.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will work around the clock to X-ray every delivery truck and any other vehicle authorized to enter the MetLife Stadium complex for anything suspicious.

Agents will be looking for smugglers, narcotics, terror activity, and more potential threats.

Throughout Super Bowl week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will use HCV Mobile Scanning trucks to examine vehicles.

[…]

“We are xraying every piece of equipment, every cargo, every beverage, seat cushion, every piece of merchandise, food…everything that is going in the stadium has to be x-rayed before it goes in,” Kevin McCabe, Chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency says.

[…]

The FBI also gave Fox 5 a behind-the-scenes tour of its joint operations and surveillance center in Newark.


Kurt Nimmo at Infowars: Police State Gets Ready for Super Bowl XLVIII says:

In addition to unprecedented security at the stadium, a sprawling police state apparatus will extend to airports and mass transit. The “security experience,” according to rail officials, for football fans will begin the moment they arrive at the airport with bag screening, K-9 VIPR teams, and Fourth Amendment busting random searches on trains going to and from the game.

The feds, working with local and state agencies, plan to search all bags at Secaucus Junction, a major commuter rail hub, for an expected 15,000 New Jersey Transit passengers en route to the Meadowlands station, which is located near the stadium.

Additional TSA agents will beef up searches and radiation scans at Newark’s Liberty International Airport and at New Jersey Transit and Metropolitan Transit Authority trains from hubs such as New York’s Grand Central and Penn stations.


Alicia Jessup at Forbes: Security is Big Business at Super Bowl XLVII

Security planning for Super Bowl XLVII began over 18-months ago, according to Federal Coordinator and Special Agent in Charge, Ray Parmer, who was specifically stationed in New Orleans to serve as a local representative assisting New Orleans in its Super Bowl security preparations. Parmer has worked with local, state and federal officials to develop and implement a security plan. In recent weeks, execution of this plan has escalated. Secretary Napolitano noted that security for the Super Bowl extends beyond the event itself. For instance, since the Monday preceding the Super Bowl, cargo entering New Orleans ports has been scanned. Additionally, the Coast Guard has been working to secure all marinas and Customs Enforcement is on the lookout for counterfeit Super Bowl goods.

Israel and Saudi Ambitions

Israel-Palestine: When the Map Lies

The US and Iran are negotiating to end the over 33 years of lack of diplomatic recognition and the US-led sanction on Iran. This effort causes the Right Wing Israeli Government to scream “Nooooooo…”.

Consequently AIPAC is putting pressure, successfully we’d assert, on the US congress to pass laws which say ‘We’ll have none of that, in THIS house, thank you,” like some dowager aunt, who has an unshakable belief in her own moral values, after being a libertine in her youth.

To us it makes good sense for Iran to have a nuclear program for two reasons, first to counter Israel’s nuclear program with which it threatens its close neighbors, including Iran, and second to provide a lever to force the US to negotiate; without an Iranian nuclear program, the US and Iran would probably not be negotiating anything.

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Behind Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Opposition to the Geneva Agreement, Part Two

Fragmentation
Netanyahu might have a bolder ambition in mind than merely preventing Iran from advancing its nuclear program. The Middle East is changing more rapidly than at any time since the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Countries in the region are vanishing from the maps of the world, breaking apart into smaller, often antagonistic mini-states. Libya is now three provinces and a dozen or so regional and tribal militias. Syria has fragmented into a Shia-Alawi region along the Mediterranean and countless regions under various militias backed by different foreign powers. Iraq has seen its Kurdish north all but break away and its Sunni west is slipping from its grasp.
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NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show

Washington Post, By Barton Gellman & Ashkan Soltani, December 4

The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.

The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.