Apr 30, 2009

Swine Before Pearls: A Nastier Ivan Squandered In the Flu

In the nick of time - if but a bit upstaged by that wetback bug brouhaha.

[Russian] Andrei recalled that his men had detained a suspect who had several videos of [Chechnyan] militants torturing Russian hostages. One showed him laughing as his comrades raped a 12-year-old girl and then shot off three of her fingers.

“We all went berserk after watching this,” said Andrei, who had begun to beat the suspect. “He fell to the ground. I ordered him to get up but he couldn’t because of his handcuffs. I ordered the cuffs off but something was wrong with the lock. I became angrier and ordered one of my sergeants to get them off no matter what.

“So he took an axe and chopped his arms off. The prisoner screamed in agony. Clearly it would have been impossible to interrogate him further so I shot him in the head.”


Vladimir and his men referred to their prey as “zaichik” - a term of endearment used by lovers that means “little hare”.

“Only a very small circle of my men took part in this work. Some of those we abducted were tougher than others but eventually everyone talks when you give them the right treatment.

“We used several methods. We’d beat them to a pulp with our bare hands and with sticks. One very effective method is ‘the grand piano’ - when one by one we’d smash the captive’s fingers with a hammer. It’s dirty and difficult work. You would not be human if you enjoyed it but it was the only way to get this filth to talk.”

A hammer would also be used to smash a captive’s kneecaps and militants would be forced to perform sexual acts. The scenes would occasionally be filmed and circulated among enemy combatants in psychological warfare.


Andrei added: “What mattered most was to carry out this work professionally, not to leave evidence which could be traced back to us. Our bosses knew about such methods but there was a clear understanding that we should cover our tracks. We knew we'd be hung out to dry if we got caught.

“We are not murderers. We are officers engaged in a war against brutal terrorists who will stop at nothing, not even at killing children. They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”


The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since the second world war

The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.

Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian government publicly condemns torture and extrajudicial killings and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.

In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”

The two officers expressed pride in their contribution to the special forces’ “success” in containing the terrorist threat. But they spoke on condition they would not be named.

A hacked & jacked Sunday Times via TimesOnline.

Mexican Cyber Flu

Three years to say what anyone working in this biz for three days could have told them.

From today's NYT:

The United States has no clear military policy about how the nation might respond to a cyberattack on its communications, financial or power networks, a panel of scientists and policy advisers warned Wednesday, and the country needs to clarify both its offensive capabilities and how it would respond to such attacks.

The report, based on a three-year study by a panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, is the first major effort to look at the military use of computer technologies as weapons. The potential use of such technologies offensively has been widely discussed in recent years, and disruptions of communications systems and Web sites have become a standard occurrence in both political and military conflicts since 2000.

The report, titled “Technology, Policy, Law, and Ethics Regarding U.S. Acquisition and Use of Cyberattack Capabilities,” concludes that the veil of secrecy that has surrounded cyberwar planning is detrimental to the country’s military policy.

The report’s authors include Adm. William A. Owens, a former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; William O. Studeman, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Walter B. Slocombe, former under secretary of defense for policy. Scientists and cyberspecialists on the panel included Richard L. Garwin, an I.B.M. physicist.

Admiral Owens said at a news conference Wednesday in Washington that the notion of “enduring unilateral dominance in cyberspace” by the United States was not realistic in part because of the low cost of the technologies required to mount attacks. He also said the idea that offensive attacks were “nonrisky” military options was not correct.

In the United States, the offensive use of cyberweapons is a highly classified military secret. There have been reports going back to the 1990s that American intelligence agencies have mounted operations in which electronic gear was systematically modified to disrupt the activities of an opponent or for surveillance purposes. But these activities have not been publicly acknowledged by the government.


The authors point to a 2004 Pentagon statement on military doctrine, indicating that the United States might respond to a cyberattack with the military use of nuclear weapons in certain cases. “For example,” the Pentagon National Military Strategy statement says, “cyberattacks on U.S. commercial information systems or attacks against transportation networks may have a greater economic or psychological effect than a relatively small release of a lethal agent.”