May 31, 2007

Of Old News: China's Great Leaps - Firecrackers & Information Operations

Perhaps the news of particular worthiness is the markedly sudden and ubiquitous nature of the reporting going on around town that the Last Standing Reds Of Any Measure have suddenly discovered and latched onto the utility of I.O.s.


A US military report, The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2007 report (PDF), into the future of relations with China claims that the Chinese government is developing an information warfare division for use in possible future conflicts.

The report suggests that, in addition to the Red Army's army, navy, air force and rocket arms, the Chinese government is putting together a team to deal with "electronic and online arenas ".

"People's Liberation Army authors often cite the need in modern warfare to control information, sometimes termed an 'information blockade'," says the report.

"China is pursuing this ability by improving information and operational security, developing electronic warfare and information warfare capabilities, and denial and deception.
-Computing UK


May 30, 2007

"Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art: Foundations for the Future"

Bush's "secret enhanced interrogation techniques", also known as "we do not engage in torture," have been judged as ineffective in practice by experts consulted by the intelligence community's Intelligence Science Board (ISB).

Today's New York Times has a front page story on last December's ISB report.

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods -- possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda -- are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history. ...

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.

"There's an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply," said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department. ...

(S)ome of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called "Educing Information," say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

"It far outclassed what we've done," said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., "had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly," and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts "amateurish" by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.

"We have a whole social science literature on persuasion," Mr. Borum said. "It's mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation."

"Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art: Foundations for the Future," Intelligence Science Board, Phase 1 Report, December 2006 (374 page pdf)


May 29, 2007

Syrian Sex Trade Flooded With Iraqi Refugee Workers

If Allah reads this article, he will become mightily angry and will prepare a woeful punishment for the transgressors.

For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.

Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to "have a cup of tea." ...

Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.

According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.

Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in "severe need" turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, "the head of the family brings clients to the house."

Aid workers say thousands of Iraqi women work as prostitutes in Syria, and point out that as violence in Iraq has increased, the refugee population has come to include more female-headed households and unaccompanied women.

"So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped," said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus, which helps Iraqi refugees. ...

Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club's parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.

From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.

And though some women of other nationalities, including Russians and Moroccans, still work as prostitutes in Damascus, Abeer, a 23-year-old from Baghdad working at the same club as Hiba, explained that the arriving Iraqis had pushed many of them out of business.

"From what I've seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis," she said. "The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they'll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available."

May 28, 2007


The Early Bird ...

We have previously touched upon the U.S. military's plan to reach out to the forgotten continent (see AFRICOM - Not Your Regular Docents de Council of African Museums).

It turns out that the busy folks at the Pentagon aren't even waiting for AFRICOM to formally get up and running in October.

The psy-ops office has set up shop early.

The Pentagon is carrying out information operations with military information support teams deployed to U.S. embassies on the continent. One such operation includes a Web site ( that provides news and comment directed at North Africa in Arabic, French and English.

P.S. An African news site with podcasts- now that's a show of force!


May 27, 2007

The Perfect Guardian - Disinformation Laundering 101

Targeting Britain's The Guardian newspaper to launder disinformation is smart. Pulling it off is brilliant.

The Guardian's solid track record of appealing to that particularly pesky demographic comprised of middle-ground liberal to the left-wing end of the political spectrum must have made it quite the prize for anyone looking to launder some good old war pretexting disinformation. Lull the lactos intolerant vegetarians into drowsiness and the meat-eaters will already be in Schiavo Comaland.

The Guardian was today criticized by the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) for republishing what it claims is unsubstantiated Bush Administration propaganda on its May 22 edition.

They feared that the front page article lacked basic journalistic professionalism and will be used to provide justification for an escalation of the US military surge in Iraq and possible military action against Iran.

Under the headline, “Iran’s Secret Plan for Summer Offensive to Force US out of Iraq”, the author Simon Tisdall quotes almost without qualification statements made by an anonymous senior US official in Baghdad. With no other source cited and no evidence asked for, the Guardian reported:

“Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces…” He continues, “They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]… We expect that al-Qaida and Iran will both attempt to increase the propaganda and increase the violence prior to [US commander Gen. David] Petraeus’s report in September, the official said.”

Professor Abbas Edalat
of CASMII UK said today:

“The Guardian has reported, without any challenge or any critical analysis, highly incriminating but unfounded and unsubstantiated statements by an unnamed US official in such a way that they appear to the reader as facts. These malicious accusations, which have been systematically heightened recently, are designed to cover up the failure of the US in establishing security in Iraq four years after the criminal and illegal invasion of that country, to blame Iranian interference and thereby justify a US pre-emptive military attack on Iran.”

By propagating the myth of a link between Iran and al-Qaida and using the existing legislation in the US which authorizes the white House to use force against countries and organisations supporting al-Qaida, President Bush can launch an attack on Iran without any further explicit approval from the Congress.

Edalat added:

“The Guardian article can be used to pave the way for such a scenario in the public opinion and support the propaganda interests of the Bush administration by echoing White House smears that war critics are aiding and abetting terrorist governments and organizations. We expect this kind of shoddy, biased political journalism from some of the more right wing publications around the world and are deeply disappointed about the Guardian’s oversight in publishing this report in the way it has appeared.”

Tisk Tisk, Simon. I could have spotted you the cash and booze.


May 26, 2007

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Prewar Assessments About Postwar Iraq

The Senate Intelligence Committee late yesterday afternoon released their review of the intelligence community's performance before the Iraq invasion in predicting the post-war ramifications of deposing Saddam Hussein.

The same studies were recently discussed here (see They Can't Say They Weren't Warned). Basically, the White House was told beforehand that we could expect all the bad things that have since happened in occupied Iraq.

Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on Prewar Assessments About Postwar Iraq (229 page pdf).

The report declassifies and publishes in full two January 2003 National Intelligence Council (NIC) Intelligence Community Assessments (ICA): "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq" and "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."

There are a sizable number of excised passages in the original papers dealing with other countries in the region, the deletions being most noticeable when the subject turns to Iran's reaction to events in Iraq.

Much information is presented about the political environment in Iraq during Saddam's reign, with the conclusion that the political culture there is far from fertile ground in which to transplant democracy.

Other analysis wasn't always real accurate. Oil going up to $40 a barrel is a negative possibility foreseen in case of a cutoff of Iraqi supplies, especially -- according to the paper -- in combination with instability in Venezuela. But we are told that $15 barrels would be back as soon as the respective situations returned to normal. However, maybe the analysts were right about the basic economics, which would naturally lead to the suspicion that oil company skullduggery may be responsible for the dissonance.

In July 2002, the intelligence community held a simulation of how the post-Saddam political reconstruction might look. A long-term requirement for large numbers of U.S. forces to remain in country was envisioned. The Iraqis were seen to be focused on short-term political advantage over their rivals rather than focusing on the big picture. And the U.N. was seen as not acquiescing to U.S. plans for Iraqi political development.

After the two big ICAs (which are NIE caliber papers), there is also an Overview of Other Intelligence Assessments on Postwar Iraq, listing and summarizing various products of individual intelligence community agencies.

A CIA assessment from August 2002 entitled The Perfect Storm: Planning For Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq summed up in one handy package what could still be in store for Iraq. Intended as a worst case scenario, here are some highlights: "anarchy and territorial breakup in Iraq; instability in key Arab states; a surge of global terrorism and deepening Islamic antipathy towards the United States; major oil supply disruptions; and severe strains in the Atlantic alliance." Also, "Al Qaeda operatives take advantage of a destabilized Iraq to establish secure safe havens from which they can continue their operations", and "Iran works to install a regime friendly to ... Iranian policies." The Perfect Storm also warns of "Afghanistan tipping into civil strife as U.N. and other coalition forces are unable or unwilling to replace American military resources."

The distribution list of the two primary studies is included, attesting to the fact that this material was sent all over town.

This lengthy report tells us that a lot of effort was expended examining the likelihood that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would turn out to be detrimental to U.S. interests. The issue of whether Iraq was actually a threat was not the subject matter of these Phase II (Senate Intelligence Committee investigative terminology, as opposed to the DOD usage of Phase IV to refer to the postwar scenario) studies.

The Kerr Study Group's second report (a 2004 CIA evaluation) noted vis-a-vis these earlier studies, "Intelligence projections in this area [analysis of post-Saddam Iraq], however, although largely accurate, had little or no impact on policy deliberation."

A more damning indictment of how we got to this national nightmare would be hard to conceive.

May 25, 2007

Nobody is on our side in Iraq. Nobody.

If you can forget the giant sucking hole where our strategy ought to be, and the total hopelessness of it all, Iraq can be a real pleasure to watch just for the sheer coolness of the videos coming out lately. My favorite is the footage showing the bomb going off in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament.

The set-up was classic comedy: a reporter from Al-Hurra, our billion-dollar try at translating Fox News into Arabic, was interviewing a Shi'ite mullah - one of those crusading democracy heroes who also kind of appreciate the $5,000 monthly salaries and $7,000 expense accounts. The reporter's asking the Mullah some fake question when there's a big WHAM! through the wall.

That noise was a bomb going off in the legislature's official cafeteria. It was one of the Honorable Gentlemen from the Jihadi Party saying in real clear language, "I beg to differ." It wasn't exactly Robert's Rules of Order, but it got the point across. "Point of or-duh, Mis-tuh Chairman! I wish to ask the House's indulgence while I pull this little string and blow you to hell before you can finish your American-taxpayer funded hummus lunch special! I wish to express myself with these little ball bearings! I wish to splatter my colleagues, very rare, over the steam tables!"

That, as the hippies say, "is what democracy looks like."Or in this case, "sounds like." It was the noise of somebody detonating an explosive belt, or vest, or some other item of the local tailoring specialty: Semtex accessories. In order to pull his pop-top, the bomber had to get through five separate checkpoints.

So I had to laugh when CNN spent days asking its high-priced military experts (re: media assets) if this might be "an inside job." Gee, ya think? Nah, maybe he just brought in the plastique on a serving tray, told the cooks it was a slab of tuna for the sushi lunch deal. If they asked about the wires coming out of it, he could say it was the latest spa fad from Osaka: acupuncture to stimulate the freshness cells.

Christ, of course it was an inside job. There's no other kind of job in Iraq. Here's the bottom line that nobody wants to face: Nobody is on our side in Iraq. Nobody.
-War Nerd

Just Being Neighborly

Mexico is expanding its ability to tap telephone calls and e-mail using money from the U.S. government, a move that underlines how the country's conservative government is increasingly willing to cooperate with the United States on law enforcement.

The expansion comes as President Felipe Calderon is pushing to amend the Mexican Constitution to allow officials to tap phones without a judge's approval in some cases. Calderon argues that the government needs the authority to combat drug gangs, which have killed hundreds of people this year.

Mexican authorities for years have been able to wiretap most telephone conversations and tap into e-mail, but the new $3-million Communications Intercept System being installed by Mexico's Federal Investigative Agency will expand their reach.

The system will allow authorities to track cellphone users as they travel, according to contract specifications. It includes extensive storage capacity and will allow authorities to identify callers by voice. The system, scheduled to begin operation this month, was paid for by the U.S. State Department and sold by Verint Systems Inc., a politically well-connected firm based in Melville, N.Y., that specializes in electronic surveillance.

Although information about the system is publicly available, the matter has drawn little attention so far in the United States or Mexico. The modernization program is described in U.S. government documents, including the contract specifications, reviewed by The Times.

They suggest that Washington could have access to information derived from the surveillance. Officials of both governments declined to comment on that possibility.

"It is a government of Mexico operation funded by the U.S.," said Susan Pittman, of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Queries should be directed to the Mexican government, she said.

Anyone wishing to conduct such an inquiry would be well advised to leave contact information, travel itinerary, and names and addresses of next-of-kin, with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City before proceeding.

May 24, 2007

Catching Up With CATCH-ALL - NSA Domestic Surveillance

Is the NSA's domestic surveillance program far greater in scope than anyone, save SMC, has admitted to?

We might just have caught an indirect glimpse of the behemoth SMC has referred to as CATCH-ALL by observing the interference pattern generated by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's cross-illuminated testimony in the Senate on May 15.

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey claimed that the entire leadership of the Justice Department was prepared to resign over their disagreement with the White House, in particular with Cheney and his lawyer Addington - and specifically over circumstances pertaining to the NSA's domestic surveillance program.

What are these circumstances? Do they comprise the significant difference between what has hitherto been admitted and what SMC has long dubbed & described as CATCH-ALL?

For a moment last week we thought we might just have laid a morning misty eye on ol' Nessie coming up for air. Then she dove - if that was her at all.

I.O.s Against Iran - A Secret To Who?

Oh, so it's been a secret that the U.S. has been running a concerted non-kinetic (for the most part) blitz of covert operations against Iran for well over a year now - longer or shorter depending on which of a plethora of specific covert programs is chosen to benchmark the kickoff of such an arbitrarily drawn time line.

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.
May 22, 2007 ABC News

There's obviously something odd going on here and I can't help but join in on the conjecturing going down over at The Washington Monthly's Political Animal.

A week ago, in a reversal of its longtime policy, the Bush administration agreed to hold face-to-face talks with Iran. This decision didn't go over well with conservatives, who believe that negotiation is a sign of weakness, and likely didn't go over well with hardliners within the administration for the same reason.

What to do? Answer: Prove that you're still as tough as you ever were. Perhaps this is why we've seen the following in the past few days:

*An obviously planted story about plans to respond strongly to any Iranian provocation in Iraq this summer.

*A leak to ABC News about a covert program to destabilize the Iranian regime.

*The start of a major naval exercise in the Persian Gulf. Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center made the connection plain: "The Americans are sending a message to Iran that they are not coming to the negotiating table weak, but with their military at Tehran's doorstep.''

These actions are probably designed both to put the Iranians on notice and to quell conservative disquiet at home. For their part, the Iranians may be engaged in the same kind of gamesmanship, and with the same two audiences in mind. Perhaps that explains their rash of recent jailings of Iranian-Americans?

May 23, 2007

Secret Second Surge?

Hearst newspapers reported Tuesday that the Bush Administration is planning a second "surge" in Iraq, claiming officials are "quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year" and citing an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders.

"The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there," the story, by Washington correspondent Stewart M. Powell, reports.

Powell said he spent 10 days collecting and analyzing deployment orders for 36 different units and their planned deployment in Iraq through December 2008. "We took the announced deployments and tracked them month by month," he told E&P. "This is just laying the groundwork for what could be a sizeable combat force."

Powell's story added that the actions could boost the number of combat soldiers "from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades."

The report notes that, with the additional troops, the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq could jump from 162,000 to more than 200,000 -- "a record-high number" -- by the end of the year.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey denied the report, according to Powell. "There isn't a second surge going on; we've got what we've got," Ey told him. "The idea that there are ever going to be more combat brigades in theater in the future than the secretary of defense has authorized is pure speculation."

"It doesn't surprise me that they're not talking about it," Powell quoted retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, as saying. "I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this."
-Excerpt Editor & Publisher

Ayatollahs' Cartoon Concerns

C'mon. Not all cartoons start out as crafty I.O.s hellbent on riling up the pious goatherder demographic. Some just get targeted for exploitation along the way.

A biting animation about a young girl's life under Iran's ayatollahs screened at Cannes Tuesday despite protests from Tehran of Western bias.

"Persepolis", one of 22 films competing for the festival's top award, is based on the eponymous comic-book series by Iranian Marjane Satrapi.

The movie offers a child's eye look at Iran from the age of eight, just as the Shah is about to be evicted by the Islamic regime still in place today.

Dick Cheney - Persian Mole

A funny thing happened on the floor of the Senate last [month. Sen. Graham] asked a serious question: "If the war in Iraq is lost, then who won?"

At a regional level the big winner is obvious: Iran.

In fact, Iran wins so big in this war that I've already said that Dick Cheney's DNA should be checked out by a reputable lab, because he has to be a Persian mole.

My theory is that they took a fiery young Revolutionary Guard from the slums of Tehran, dipped him in a vat of lye to get that pale, pasty Anglo skin, zapped his scalp for that authentic bald CEO look, squirted a quart of cholesterol into his arteries so he'd develop classic American cardiac disease, and parachuted him into the outskirts of some Wyoming town.

And that's how our VP was born again, a half-frozen zombie with sagebrush twigs in his jumpsuit, stumbling into the first all-night coffee shop in Casper talking American with a Persian accent: "Hello my friends! Er, I mean, hello my fellow Americans! Coffee? I will have coffee at once, indeed, and is not free enterprise a glorious thing? Say, O brethren of the frosty tundra, what do you say we finish our donuts and march on Baghdad now, this very moment, to remove the Baathist abomination Saddam?"

It took a couple years for Cheney-ajad to get his American accent right and chew his way into Bush Jr.'s head, but he made it like one of Khan's earwigs, got us to do the Ayatollahs' dirty work for them by taking out Iraq, their only rival for regional power. Iraq is destroyed, and Tehran hasn't lost a single soldier in the process.

Our invasion put their natural allies, the Shia, in power; gave their natural enemies, the Iraqi Sunni, a blood-draining feud that will never end; and provided them with a risk-free laboratory to spy on American forces in action. If they feel like trying out a new weapon or tactic to deal with U.S. armor, all they have to do is feed the supplies or diagrams to one of their puppet Shia groups, or even one of the Sunni suicide-commando clans.

All these claims that Iran is helping the insurgents really make my head spin. Of course they're helping. They'd be insane if they weren't. If somebody invades the country next door, any state worth mentioning has to act. If Mexico got invaded by China, you better believe the U.S. would react. We'd lynch any president who didn't.

What really amazes me is how patient Iran has been about it, how quiet and careful. They've covered their tracks carefully and kept their intervention to R&D level: just enough to keep Iraq burning, and patiently test out news IEDs.

But that's the Persian way: behind all the yelling, they're sly, clever people. If Iranian intelligence really wanted to flood Iraq with weaponry that would turn our APCs into well-insulated BBQs, they could have done it long ago.

The situation in Iraq right now is optimum for Iran. Iraq is like a nuclear reactor that they can control by inserting and removing control rods. If Shia/Sunni violence looks like cooling off, Tehran's agents, who've penetrated both sides of the fight, play the hothead in their assigned Sunni or Shia gangs and lobby for a spectacular attack on enemy civvies or shrines - whatever gets the locals' blood up. Then, if things get too hot, which would mean the U.S. getting fed up and leaving, they drop a control rod into the reactor core by telling Sadr to call off his militia or letting the Maliki regime stage some ceremony for the TV crews, the kind that keeps the Bushies back in Ohio convinced it's all going to come out fine.

They need to keep us there, because - makes me sick to say it but it's true - our troops are now the biggest, strongest control rod the Persians are using to set the temperature of this war. They want us there as long as possible, stoking the feuds and making sure nobody wins. That's what we just did under Petraeus: switched sides, Shia to Sunni, because the Shia were getting too strong. Yeah, God forbid we should be unfair to the Sunnis, God forbid we should do anything to let somebody win. Let's just make Tehran happy by keeping the feud going another few centuries.

One thing Iran is pretty clearly not scared of is every American amateur's dream: a punitive U.S. invasion of Iran. In fact, like North Korea, their partner in the Axis of Evil, Iran is all but begging us to invade. Guys in junior high used to hold their chins out, tap them with a finger and say, "Come on, fucker, come on, hit me!" That's Iran now, chin out and begging for a right hook.

Because with all the anti-armor know-how they've gained by now, they have traps waiting for us that would make Lara Croft's cave expeditions look like a backyard tea party. Even Cheney's team knows that, which is why they're talking about air raids on Iran these days, not invasion.

Some paranoids want to list Israel among the winners, but I don't see it. Perle, Feith and Wolfowitz thought invading Iraq would help Israel, or rather Likud, but like everything else these geniuses predicted, it didn't happen. Iraq was never a threat to Israel. Iran is. And Iran is much stronger now. Last summer's war with Hezbollah was one the Israelis didn't really want to fight, but Cheney insisted. That was the deal, I guess: the U.S. takes out Saddam, then you take out Hezbollah. Instead, the IDF looked scared and weak in South Lebanon, so now Hezbollah and Iran are the poster-boys of every red-blooded Muslim kid on the planet.

Turkey, America's one real ally in the Middle East, is a huge loser in this war. We slapped them in the face, gave the Kurds a base to destabilize southeastern Turkey, and helped elect the first Islamist president in what used to be a proudly secular country.

Happy now, Cheney, you Khomeini-loving, anti-American mole?

When you zoom farther out to look at the global picture, the question "Who won Iraq?" doesn't have such an obvious answer. It's much easier to see who lost: Us, and anybody who backed us. We looked invincible after taking out the Taliban. Not no more. If you use armored columns as stationary cops in enemy neighborhoods, you give the locals plenty of time to figure out their weak spots. That's what we did: gave the Arabs a trillion-dollar, multi-year seminar in how to defeat U.S. forces. Another lesson in the Brecher Doctrine: Nuke 'em, bribe 'em or leave 'em alone.

To find a winner in this war means looking outside the box, like they say - or rather outside the theater of war. Because the winners are the countries smart enough to stay out of it.

So the likely winner of a war like this is an up-n-coming world economic power that has been investing in its own economy while we blow a trillion - yep, a trillion - dollars on nothing. Not hard to figure out who the likely suspects are here.

The answer to "Who won Iraq?" is Iran in the short run, and in the long run, China and India.

What's worst is that the war's made us dumber. When Sen. Graham asked his question, "Who won Iraq?" he thought he was being clever. He thought we're too dumb and soft to face that question and its answers. Because there are answers, pretty grim ones. I just hope people are tough enough to start thinking about them.
-Excerpt of Gary Brecher's Who Won Iraq in The Exile

They Will Love Her There

Because everybody knows how much Muslim leaders like to deal with unveiled women, President Bush has picked a logical choice to take command of the U.S. government presence in an important country which is in an evolving political crisis.

President Bush has chosen Anne W. Patterson to be ambassador to Pakistan, the White House said.

If confirmed by the Senate, she would replace Ryan Crocker, who earlier this year became the ambassador to Iraq.

Ms. Patterson now leads the State Department’s bureau for international narcotics and law-enforcement affairs. She has previously served as deputy ambassador to the United Nations and ambassador to Colombia.

Her C.V. doesn't inspire too much confidence, except perhaps to the mind of President Bush.

Coddling obdurate regimes seems to be an important part of the skill set she brings to the job.

Maybe she is a perfect choice, after all.

May 22, 2007


Two new Effwitonian posts make a foray into more initiated domains a raid worth while.

Iran Secretly Helping Their Sunni Enemies, U.S. Says
This looks like an effort at perception management, the American public being the intended audience.


Brits Conducting Secret Negotiations With Iraqi Insurgents
We have previously discussed the U.S. military and OGA's secret talks with Iraqi insurgent groups (see inter alia, Details of High-Level US Talks With Iraqi Insurgent Groups Revealed and US Talks With Iraqi Insurgents Confirmed).

Our British allies were always assumed to be at least peripherally involved with the effort. Now the Brits are reported to be taking the lead along these lines after the U.S.-led initiative didn't make the desired progress.

Credibilty Squandered - A Call For Propaganda, Arms, Intelligence

"A new security study released by the Third Way, a Democratic-leaning think tank," and authored by two former Clinton administration officials, discusses how to rebuild U.S. credibility overseas.

The study calls for "a robust military response to the terrorist threat," along with "a massive public relations effort akin to the Cold War propaganda machine."

Militarily, the study suggests 100,000 more ground troops and "reinvigorated intelligence services."

It also calls for "a massive increase to the $140 million the United States spends annually on public diplomacy," and "re-creating the United States Information Agency, which was folded into the State Department during the Clinton administration."
-Source: The Hill

May 21, 2007

Russia Expanding Intelligence Operations in U.S.

Russia's covert foreign intelligence operations against America have reached cold war levels under President Vladimir Putin, according to Washington officials.

White House intelligence advisers believe no other country is as aggressive as Russia in trying to obtain US secrets, with the possible exception of China.

In particular the SVR, as the former KGB's foreign intelligence arm is now known, is using a network of undercover agents in America to gather classified information about sensitive technologies, including military projects under development and high-tech research.

Yuri Shvets, a former KGB agent, said: "In the days of the Soviet Union, the number of spies was limited because they had to be based at the foreign ministry, the trade mission or the news agencies like Tass. Right now, virtually every successful private company in Russia is being used as a cover for Russian intelligence operations."

Intelligence experts believe that since Putin became president in 2000, the Russians have rebuilt a network of agents in the United States that had been depleted during the country’s transition from communism.

Putin served 16 years in the KGB, including a spell in foreign intelligence in East Germany. He became head of the FSB, the domestic security service. According to Shvets, the FSB has been operating widely in America because of its favoured status with Putin. Agents, some acting under diplomatic cover, are said to be trying to recruit specialists in American facilities with access to sensitive information. ...

John Pike, a military and security analyst who runs, said a surge in recruitment of US intelligence operatives since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had presented great opportunities for the Russians to penetrate the CIA and other agencies. Shvets believes Russian agents are also entering America legally as immigrants, a rarity in the strictly controlled Soviet era.

The increase in Russian intelligence activity abroad is in step with Moscow's more aggressive stance since Putin came to power and turned the country’s lagging economy around on the back of record high oil prices.

Putin's abrasive style has frustrated Washington. Relations between Russia and the United States are worse than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Comparisons with the tension of the cold war years have become commonplace.

"President Putin thinks the United States has been weakened by Iraq," said Richard Holbrooke, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. "He thinks he has been strengthened by recent events and high-priced oil and he is trying to put Russia back on the international map."

Estonia, the Baltic state, appeared last week to have become the target of a cyber attack after a row with Moscow over its decision to relocate a Soviet-era military monument (see Target Estonia - Russians Coordinate World's Largest Internet Attack). The Estonians claim professional hackers from Russia targeted the internet sites of ministries, parliament, banks, the media and large companies, causing their systems to crash.

The attack followed Russian calls to impose sanctions on Estonia, cuts in Moscow's oil and gas deliveries and a campaign of intimidation by a Kremlin-backed youth group against the Estonian ambassador. Nato has sent a cyber-crime expert to help the Estonians, fearing that it could be next.

May 20, 2007

Maybe Iraq Wasn't Such A Good Idea

The chickens are coming home to roost from the debacle in Iraq.

A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaeda operatives and money into Pakistan's tribal territories, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, U.S. officials said that Al Qaeda's command base in Pakistan is increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network's operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

The influx of money has bolstered Al Qaeda's leadership ranks at a time when the core command is regrouping and reasserting influence over its far-flung network. The trend also signals a reversal in the traditional flow of Al Qaeda funds, with the network's leadership surviving to a large extent on money coming in from its most profitable franchise, rather than distributing funds from headquarters to distant cells.

Al Qaeda's efforts were aided, intelligence officials said, by Pakistan's withdrawal in September of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border where Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

Little more than a year ago, Al Qaeda's core command was thought to be in a financial crunch. But U.S. officials said cash shipped from Iraq has eased those troubles.

"Iraq is a big moneymaker for them," said a senior U.S. counter-terrorism official.

The evolving picture of Al Qaeda's finances is based in part on intelligence from an aggressive effort launched last year to intensify the pressure on Bin Laden and his senior deputies.

As part of a so-called surge in personnel, the CIA deployed as many as 50 clandestine operatives to Pakistan and Afghanistan — a dramatic increase over the number of CIA case officers permanently stationed in those countries. All of the new arrivals were given the primary objective of finding what counter-terrorism officials call "HVT1" and "HVT2." Those "high value target" designations refer to Bin Laden and Zawahiri.

The surge was part of a broader shake-up at the CIA designed to refocus on the hunt for Bin Laden, officials said. One former high-ranking agency official said the CIA had formed a task force that involved officials from all four directorates at the agency, including analysts, scientists and technical experts, as well as covert operators.

The officials were charged with reinvigorating a search that had atrophied when some U.S. intelligence assets and special forces teams were pulled out of Afghanistan in 2002 to prepare for the war with Iraq. ...

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, as the network's Iraq branch is known, has drawn increasingly large contributions from elsewhere in the Muslim world — largely because the fight against U.S. forces has mobilized donors across the Middle East, officials said.

May 19, 2007

Incentivization Par Excellence

From Tom Ricks's Inbox:

By now, anyone paying attention knows that one of the unusual characteristics of the Iraq war is the U.S. military's heavy reliance on contractors, who really are the second largest contributor to the coalition that remains there. But even I was surprised by this eye-popping salary for an intelligence analyst -- even to work in a rough neighborhood. The handsomely paid analysts should be starting their new jobs right about now.


Subject: Job openings in Fallujah

What: All-Source Intelligence, CI/HUMINT and/or SIGINT Analyst

Who: Contract: Abraxas Corporation; Client: 1st Intelligence Bn, IMEF, USMC

Where: Camp Fallujah, Iraq

When: May/June 07 start date, these are 1 year tours with two weeks leave

**Salary:$265,000 - $340,000 **

Send resumes to [deleted]


May 18, 2007

Web Censorship - The Good, The Ugly, The Bad

Open Net will be publishing the first ever global survey on the extent of internet filtering - the result of some five years work - which will also be published as a book later in the year. The ONI collects global data on Internet filtering using technical and contextual tools.

Preliminary reports of the study indicate that China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia, and Viet Nam are the worst offenders when it comes to political censorship of web content.

Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, U.A.E., and Yemen exercise the strictest controls over social content online.

No internet censorship was found in Russia, The Palestinian Territories, or Israel - despite the existence of entrenched conflicts in these regions.

According to the report's researchers, internet censorship is most prevalent in countries where household internet penetration is the highest. This was taken as a significant reason for the negligent occurrence of internet censorship in Russia. (Western Europe, Cuba, and North Korea weren't included in the study.)

SIPRNet To Be Opened To Key Allies

Can't help but notice that we aren't sharing JWICS. Smart move.

The National Security Agency is working to open classified Defense Department communications networks to key allies, a move that the U.S. intelligence community has resisted for years, according to an internal NSA briefing presentation obtained by Government Executive.

NSA and Defense plan to open a classified network known as the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), to a small pool of trusted allies, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, according to PowerPoint briefing slides dated April 27, 2007, and prepared by NSA's Office of Assured Information Sharing Technologies and Products.

SIPRNet, a closed system with no access to the Internet, is the primary means by which commanders communicate secret military strategies worldwide. It hosts a wide range of applications and systems, including classified e-mail and search capabilities. Core Defense systems, such as the Global Command and Control System and the Defense Message System, run over SIPRNet. Classified portals, such as Defense Knowledge Online and Army Knowledge Online, both of which serve as jumping-off points to classified military databases, also are hosted on SIPRNet.

Military and security analysts said the move to open the secret network to allies is a significant but necessary step to cement military partnerships with those countries, which have engaged in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and have participated in maritime patrols in the Pacific.

"Warfare has become more coalition-centric, and more than ever we need to trust and rely on our partners," said Bernie Skoch, a consultant with Suss Consulting in Jenkintown, Pa.. Skoch, a retired Air Force brigadier general whose experience in military communications includes a stint as director of customer advocacy at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said NSA's plans represent "a significant change in the management of the SIPRNet."

For years, the four countries listed in the NSA briefing, along with other U.S. allies, have petitioned Defense to open SIPRNet to them so that they could have access to classified information they believed would help their militaries better coordinate operations with the United States. The Pentagon has resisted these requests.

"Foreign access to SIPRNet is, quite understandably, very limited," according to a document on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Web site that explains how information technology is transforming warfare. "Only America's closest allies, the British and Australians, were granted access, albeit temporary and limited, in certain joint missions . . . .. ... In some cases in Iraq, the British could not even see or copy intelligence data gathered by British operatives themselves, when it fused with the Americans' own data stored on the SIPRNet ...."

But broadening access has its engineering challenges, said Skoch. Because SIPRNet has no access to the Internet, it has remained free of the cyberattacks that plague Defense's unclassified network -- called the Non-classified Internet Protocol Network, or NIPRNet -- which does connect with the Internet.

Allowing allies access to SIPRNet involves weighing the risks of cyberattacks and unauthorized users gaining access to classified information against the military benefits of sharing the information, Skoch said. In this case, he said, the benefits are "equally significant" to the risks.

Information sharing is an essential ingredient to any close partnership, said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, a security training and certification organization in Bethesda, Md., which trains federal information security officials. The biggest obstacle to opening the SIPRNet to allies, Paller said, will be to "do so in a way that doesn't give away the jewels."

The briefing slides outline the strategy to obtain approval for opening SIPRNet, recommending that NSA leverage its position on the Defense Information Systems Flag Panel -- whose membership includes admirals, generals and civilian Senior Executive Service leaders in all four military services -- to change the policy. NSA intends to brief senior Defense leadership, ask for their approval and then work with DISA on the technical details, according to the briefing.

NSA did not respond to queries for comments on this article. The NSA public affairs office asked Government Executive not to run any article based on the briefing slides, which were marked unclassified, "For Official Use Only."

May 17, 2007

AFRICOM - Not Your Regular Docents de Council Of African Museums

A recently released Congressional Research Service (CRS) report (pdf) describes U.S. Government plans to establish a new military command to be known as AFRICOM.

AFRICOM will be responsible for U.S. military forces in Africa, promoting U.S. strategic objectives on the continent in light of "Africa’s growing strategic importance to U.S. interests. Among those interests are Africa’s role in the Global War on Terror and the potential threats posed by ungoverned spaces; the growing importance of Africa’s natural resources, particularly energy resources[.]"

Al Hurra Is Not Propaganda, They Say

Apparently it's not propaganda if we say so with a straight face.

Never mind who's signing the checks.

Or maybe the fact that we have no idea what is actually being said on our station gets us some deniability.

The first President George Bush created TV Martí, to beam American programming into Fidel Castro's Cuba, though Mr. Castro managed to jam it for years so people in Cuba could not actually see it.

(United States-financed Middle East television channel) Al Hurra was supposed to follow that tradition. But the station's executives admitted Wednesday that they could not be completely sure that Al Hurra was doing so, because none of the top executives speak Arabic.

"How do you know that they're being true to the mission if you don't know what's being said?" Mr. Ackerman demanded.

Joaquin F. Blaya, a Hurra executive, testified that network officials made sure to question the Arabic-speaking staff about what went on the air. Mr. Blaya and State Department officials acknowledged that the speech by the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Nasrallah, violated the network’s policy not to give a platform to those whom Washington considers to be terrorists.

But Mr. Blaya also contended in an interview on Wednesday that Al Hurra would lose all credibility if it did not give air time to people who disagree with American policy. He said that complaints about air time for Mr. Haniya were unjustified because he legitimately holds the post of Palestinian prime minister.

Mr. Blaya also said it was ironic that the government was seeking to promote American values like democracy and a free press while at the same time trying to censure what is shown in the station.

"That's the difference between a free media and propaganda," he said.

He said during the hearing that Al Hurra had appointed a new vice president for news, Larry Register, to make sure the mistakes did not happen again. But he admitted that Mr. Register did not speak Arabic either.

May 16, 2007

DOJ Determined NSA CATCH-ALL Program Was Illegal

The blogosphere is reacting to the story of Alberto Gonzales' and Andrew Card's visit to pressure then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on his sick bed as if it is "news."

On New Year's Day 2006, the story was featured on EFFWIT, with the added revelation that the episode was behind Ashcroft's resignation as AG.

-Excerpt From EFFWIT

Occupation: Reality Good, Perception Bad

So the White House has finally found its "war czar" -- someone to coordinate efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq -- after three generals turned down the job. But here's the funny thing about the czar, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute: Early last year, he (like most Pentagon officials) was saying publicly that extra troops in Iraq would be a bad idea.

“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It’s very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country,” Lt. Gen. Lute told Charlie Rose in 2006.
-Excerpt From Wire's Danger Room

Perception Management 101

It doesn't get any more basic than this:

Iraq's government began enforcing a ban on the news media photographing the aftermath of bomb attacks. Iraqi officials said it would keep photographers and television cameramen away from such scenes to prevent them from tainting evidence. But media watchdog groups expressed concern that the order was aimed at stopping images of Iraq's chaos from being shown around the world.

Police turned away photographers and cameramen Tuesday at the scene of bomb attacks in Tayaran Square in central Baghdad that killed seven people and wounded 17, the Associated Press reported.

May 15, 2007

Sharm el-Sheikh - Who Gives A Meatball

The recent conference on Iraq, held in
Sharm el-Sheikh, and attended by more than 50 countries representing half of the world's population, seems at first glance to underscore the "great interest so many countries have displayed" over the future of that torn country.

But, perhaps we should lay it on the line and ask, "Who really cares about Iraq itself?" Let's look at the eight most prominent countries that attended the conference, those with the greatest stake in Iraq.

First, the United States: Trapped in a public relations quagmire with its own population, damned if it leaves and damned if it stays, the Bush administration is seeking a course of varied pretexts that allows it to secure control of the flow of oil that was and continues to be the main factor in America's strategic calculus.

Many Americans have lost patience and want America out. Never mind that specific U.S. policies for Iraq have plunged that country into civil war while unleashing the forces of extremist Muslim radicals committed to fight America and the West. And it is just too bad for the Iraqis that their country risks becoming a brand new breeding ground of terrorists beyond the regular fray of insurgents/anti-occupation guerrillas.

The U.K.'s prospect of gaining anything from their foray into Iraq has diminished along with the fading star of Tony Blair. The British, who evidently learned nothing from their first occupation of Iraq after World War II, want to bring their troops home.

To China, the Middle East and Africa are the most fertile grounds for the expansion of its global influence. China's unquenchable thirst for oil and gas to meet the demands of an exploding economy make Iraq and Iran critical to its long-term strategic supplies of energy. With deliberation and sophistication, the Chinese are gradually chipping away at America's influence in the region, using the Iraqis' plight and the consequences of the war to their advantage.

The Russians want to recover billions of dollars in contracts they signed with Saddam Hussein that were lost to the war. Russia could not care less whether Iraq is run by a democratic or totalitarian regime and will transact with the devil as long as they can secure their profitable deals while enhancing their regional influence.

To France, the Iraqi tragedy is just an unfortunate episode for the poor Iraqis. The French salivate over the Bush administration's dismal failure but, like the Russians, seek to regain billions in contracts lost with the demise of the Hussein regime. Quel dommage that Iraqis and Americans are dying, but feeling vindicated about France's objections to the Iraq war feeds well into their national psyche.

For Iran, Iraq is the greatest windfall. Not in their wildest dreams could the Iranians have imagined that Iraq, their great and proud enemy, would be handed to them on a silver platter and by their staunch adversary, the United States.

Now, although involved in heavy trade with Iraq, to promote their own agenda they also arm Iraqi Shiite militias, which have no scruples about killing Iraqi Sunnis while pretending to be Iraq's saviors. For Tehran, the goal is to exert every ounce of its increasing influence over Iraq's internal affairs to secure its rather mundane long-term strategic and economic ambitions.

These ambitions are the threats underpinning Israel's and the U.S.'s present confrontational course vis-à-vis Iran, not anything nuclear per se. Nuclear issues are but the stuff of useful pretexts for degrading Iranian economic influence in the Middle East by way of military threats and means.

Saudi Arabia, terrified of Iran's growing regional influence and the potential of Sunni-Shiite regional conflict, wants to stem the Shiite tide at all cost. The Saudis do not want to be engulfed should the civil war escalate beyond Iraqi borders. Fearing for their very existence, the Saudis seek to empower the Sunni Iraqis in order to decrease the threat of a Shiite-perpetrated genocide, which, from their perspective, is far more plausible once the Americans leave.

For Syria the war in Iraq has only increased its own economic difficulties. Although there was no love lost between Saddam Hussein and the el Assad regime, extensive trade crossed the borders between the two nations. Syria could benefit again from a stable Iraq and at a minimum repatriate the more than one million Iraqis who have found refuge there. Syria, however, has no incentive to be overly helpful as long as the United States both occupies Iraq and threatens regime change in Damascus.

So who really cares about Iraq? It seems that only the Iraqi people do. The harsh truth seems to be that nobody else with juice really gives a damn.
-Violently Edited & Addended Excerpts Of Alon Ben Meir Article In TJOTWO

Tenet Agrees To Testify On "Intelligence Failure", Hadley Not Available

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has secured the cooperation of former CIA Director George Tenet and sent a letter to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley in its broadening probe into faulty pre-war Iraq intelligence.

Tenet has agreed to appear for a closed-door deposition regarding the now-discredited uranium claim in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, which warned that Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium from Africa, according to a committee press release.

Yesterday’s announcement is part of the panel's efforts to get testimony from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser at the time and helped oversee the drafting of the 2003 speech. In April, the panel's Democratic majority issued a subpoena for Rice — over strong objections from GOP members — and asked her to testify today. Rice has not responded to either the subpoena or to previous letters by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asking her to appear in person and answer questions about the uranium claim.

In light of forthcoming information from Tenet, the committee will move its requested hearing date for Rice up to June 19, according to the release. Tenet is also slated to testify in the public hearing on that date.

Hadley is the third official whom the committee has contacted in this probe. The panel has requested a voluntary deposition from Hadley, who was Rice's deputy in 2003.

The panel is holding off for now on deciding whether to subpoena Hadley if he does not respond.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said yesterday that testimony from Hadley is "clearly not going to happen." Fratto added that a closed-door deposition or informal talks are also ruled out.

"If the inquiry has to do with his time as a senior adviser to the president, he is not available," said Fratto.

May 14, 2007

Swabbuckling Cuz's Control Grid

A new operational HQ for the U.K.'s National DNA Database (NDNAD) custodian unit has been officially opened by Joan Ryan MP, Under Secretary of State for nationality, citizenship and immigration.

Commenting on the database, U.K. MP Joan Ryan said, "It is fascinating to see how the National DNA Database links to so many other tools[.]

Since first created in 1995, the NDNAD has become a key investigation tool which has revolutionized the way British police can identify targets for investigation and prosecution. No other police force has greater freedom to obtain, use and store genetic information from its citizens.

The Database, which links up with the national automated fingerprinting platform (IDENT1) and the Police National Computer (PNC), currently includes:

- 3.8 million individuals on the Database
- 300,000 crime scene profiles on the Database

In addition:
-Approximately 900 scene of crime to subject matches are reported per week
-Around 55,000 subject sample profiles are loaded to the Database per month
-Around 4,500 crime scene profiles are loaded to the Database per month

Taking a DNA sample (and fingerprints) from someone who has been arrested for a recordable offense and detained in a police station is now part of the normal process of a police arrest. It is no different to recording other forms of information such as photographs or witness statements.

-Jumbled & Rehashed Excerpts From Security Park

'Risk Assessment' Data On Travelers Demanded From Europe

The EU knows that the U.S. -- if denied by European officials -- will alternately get the data from the private sector. But we want to be polite and ask nicely first.

(T)he Bush administration is asking the European Union to lift its objections to the sharing of airline passenger information with American intelligence agencies, said the secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff.

On the fringes of a meeting of European interior ministers here Saturday, Mr. Chertoff argued that other countries, no matter how friendly, could not decide who entered the United States. He plans to repeat the message before a European Parliament panel in Brussels on Monday.

"While we reassure Europe, we have to insist that we can't tie our hands in keeping dangerous people out of the United States," Mr. Chertoff said in an interview here.

Under an interim accord between Washington and the European Union, data that overseas passengers routinely give airlines — address, credit card, passport, phone and other information — is being used for screening on arrival at American airports.

But the accord expires July 31, and some European governments and data protection advocates have strenuously objected to what they call an invasion of privacy and possible misuse of personal information.

At the heart of the discussions between Mr. Chertoff and the Europeans is the issue of how Washington can screen passengers who, as citizens of 15 European Union countries, do not need to apply for a visa for stays of up to 90 days. The nations include Britain, France, Germany and Italy but not the most recent entrants to the European Union, like Poland, Hungary and Romania.

Gaining access to data on British citizens of Pakistani origin has been a priority for Washington since the 2005 London transit system attack in which three of the four suicide bombers were of Pakistani descent.

The British home secretary, John Reid, who was at the conference, said he was "utterly opposed" to screening based on ethnicity.

Mr. Chertoff held discussions with Britain last month on immigration matters. He said there was no attempt to single out Britain for separate treatment. But, he said: "The visa process does afford a level of protection. The visa waiver countries by definition do not give us that. We need to find some way for a comparable level of protection."

That protection, the Homeland Security Department argues, can best be provided by feeding the passenger names and other information gathered in Europe by the airlines into another data system, the Automated Targeting System, based in Washington.

The data system, established after 9/11 to build "risk assessments" of incoming passengers, runs the names of travelers and their data against lists of known or suspected terrorists.

Some members of Congress and privacy advocates have objected to the targeting system, saying it could be used indiscriminately by Homeland Security and other agencies for "data mining" against people.

Those concerned about invasion of privacy have said that along with basic data, airlines share such things as passengers' food preferences — for example, orders for halal meals — and that this could be used to single out Muslim passengers.

May 13, 2007

Harry - Royal Desert Monkey

British defense chiefs are [claim they are] planning to let a camera crew follow Prince Harry during his tour of duty in Iraq, informs

The Ministry of Defence crew will purportedly film him while on operations, with footage being released to television channels and on the internet.

According to this info op of a story, Harry''s commanders hope the film, being dubbed Desert Prince, will inflict a propaganda defeat upon insurgent groups which have been using videos of hostages and wreckages of British aircraft to publicize their causes. Too bad Harry ain't ever setting foot in Iraq.

Mark our words, Harry the Booze Monkey was never earmarked for Iraq - though perhaps so in Harry's out-of-the-loop dreams.

All this talk of documentaries here 'n there is just one big info op to give the royal boozer an alibi for a cop out long in the planning. He's unfit for battle for a good number of reasons. A stumpy tail ain't one of them.

May 12, 2007

Could Cameron Have Made It Any More Hokey?

The Iran info-op got some "big time" juice yesterday.

Vice President Dick Cheney used the deck of an American aircraft carrier just 150 miles off Iran's coast as the backdrop yesterday to warn that the United States was prepared to use its naval power to keep Tehran from disrupting oil routes or "gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region."

(Watch AP's video snippet of speach)

Mr. Cheney said little new in his speech, delivered from the cavernous hangar bay of the John C. Stennis, one of the two carriers in the Persian Gulf. Each line had, in some form, been said before at various points in the four-year nuclear standoff with Iran, and during the increasingly tense arguments over whether Tehran is aiding insurgents in Iraq.

But Mr. Cheney stitched all of those warnings together, and the symbolism of sending the administration’s most famous hawk to deliver them so close to Iran's coast was unmistakable. It also came just a week after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had talked briefly and inconclusively with Iran's foreign minister, a step toward re-engagement with Iran that some in the administration have opposed.

Mr. Cheney's sharp warnings appeared to be part of a two-track administration campaign to push back at Iran while leaving the door open to negotiations. It was almost exactly a year ago that the United States offered to negotiate with Iran as long as it first agreed to stop enriching uranium, a decision in which Mr. Cheney, participants said, was not a major player.

Senior officials said Mr. Cheney's speech was not circulated broadly in the government before it was delivered. ...

Without question, symbols of coercion were part of the backdrop: Mr. Cheney spoke in front of five F/A-18 warplanes. While he never said so, it is clear to the Iranians that several of their major nuclear sites, including the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, are within reach of the Navy's weapons. ...

"This is about saber-rattling, and power projection," one senior State Department official said yesterday. "And who better to do it?"

May 11, 2007

Merely An Inadvertent Omission

'Significant', eh?

I'm guessing that it involves Lebanon.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said yesterday that the CIA violated the law last year when it failed to inform the panel of "a significant covert action activity."

"Despite agency explanations that the failure was inadvertent, the committee is deeply troubled over the fact that such an oversight could occur, whether intentionally or inadvertent," the panel said in its report on the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill released late yesterday.

An intelligence official said yesterday that he could not discuss the covert action. He said that after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden took his post in May 2006 and learned about the program and that Congress had not been fully briefed, "the agency itself took the issue to the Hill [and] corrected what was an inadvertent oversight."

The committee gave no hint of what the covert activity involved. It disclosed the issue in support of provisions it placed in the bill that would require the CIA inspector general to conduct audits of each covert action program at least once every three years and to submit a report on the findings to both the House and Senate intelligence panels. ...

Under the National Security Act, the president can limit "under exceptional circumstances" congressional access to approval of covert actions, but disclosure is expected to be made to the "Gang of Eight" -- the House speaker and minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairmen and ranking minority members of the two intelligence panels. The president must later inform the committees in "a timely manner."

Covert activities, which are intended to influence political or military actions abroad without any acknowledgment of U.S. involvement, are treated differently from intelligence-gathering activities, about which the law requires Congress to be kept "fully and currently informed."

May 10, 2007

Target Estonia - Russians Coordinate World's Largest Internet Attack

Russia's slamming Estonia with the world's largest internet attack - ever!

Estonia has faced down Russian rioters. But its websites are still under attack

For a small, high-tech country such as Estonia, the internet is vital. But for the past two weeks Estonia's state websites (and some private ones) have been hit by “denial of service” attacks, in which a target site is bombarded with so many bogus requests for information that it crashes.

The internet warfare broke out on April 27th, amid a furious row between Estonia and Russia over the removal of a Soviet war monument from the center of the capital, Tallinn, to a military cemetery. The move sparked rioting and looting by several thousand protesters from Estonia's large population of ethnic Russians, who tend to see the statue as a cherished memorial to wartime sacrifice. Estonians mostly see it rather as a symbol of a hated foreign occupation.

The unrest, Estonia says, was orchestrated by Russia, which termed the relocation “blasphemy” and called for the government's resignation. In Moscow, a Kremlin-run youth movement sealed off and attacked Estonia's embassy, prompting protests from America, NATO and the European Union. Perhaps taken aback by the belated but firm Western support for Estonia, Russia has back-pedalled. Following a deal brokered by Germany, Estonia's ambassador left for a “holiday” and the blockade ended as abruptly as it began.

But the internet attacks have continued.
Some have involved defacing Estonian websites, replacing the pages with Russian propaganda or bogus apologies. Most have concentrated on shutting them down. The attacks are intensifying. The number on May 9th—the day when Russia and its allies commemorate Hitler's defeat in Europe—was the biggest yet, says Hillar Aarelaid, who runs Estonia's cyber-warfare defenses. At least six sites were all but inaccessible, including those of the foreign and justice ministries. Such stunts happen at the murkier end of internet commerce: for instance, to extort money from an online casino. But no country has experienced anything on this scale.

The alarm is sounding well beyond Estonia. NATO has been paying special attention. “If a member state's communications center is attacked with a missile, you call it an act of war. So what do you call it if the same installation is disabled with a cyber-attack?” asks a senior official in Brussels. Estonia's defense ministry goes further: a spokesman compares the attacks to those launched against America on September 11th 2001. Two of NATO's top specialists in internet warfare, plus an American colleague, have hurried to Tallinn to observe the onslaught. But international law is of little help, complains Rein Lang, Estonia's justice minister.

The crudest attacks come with the culprit's electronic fingerprints. The Estonians say that some of the earliest salvoes came from computers linked to the Russian government. But most of them come from many thousands of ordinary computers, all over the world. Some of these are run by private citizens angry with Estonia. Anonymously posted instructions on how to launch denial-of-service attacks have been sprouting on Russian-language internet sites. Many others come from “botnets”—chains of computers that have been hijacked by viruses to take part in such raids without their owners knowing. Such botnets can be created, or simply rented from cyber-criminals.

To remain open to local users, Estonia has had to cut access to its sites from abroad. That is potentially more damaging to the country's economy than the limited Russian sanctions announced so far, such as cutting passenger rail services between Tallinn and St Petersburg. It certainly hampers Estonia's efforts to counter Russian propaganda that portrays the country as a fascist hellhole. “We are back to the stone age, telling the world what is going on with phone and fax,” says an Estonian internet expert.

Mikko Hyppönen of F-Secure, a Finnish internet security company that has been monitoring the attacks, says the best defense is to have strong networks of servers in many countries. That is not yet NATO's job. But it may be soon.
-Edward Lucas

Super FOB IO

The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

The new rules, obtained by Wired News, require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging," said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. "No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has -- it's most honest voice out of the war zone. And it's being silenced."

You can check out the whole story here. Read a quick interview with the regulations' author here. And take a look at how the new rules turn reporters into the equivalent of foreign spies here.

There are a whole bunch of interesting discussions on about the Army's crackdown on blogs. But the strategic minds at the Small Wars Council have the deepest discussion of the lot.
Here's a sample:

This sounds alot more like a Super FOB [Forward Operating Base] IO [Information Operations] strategy. We'll build these walls around us and communicate only on approved internal lines of communication with internal approval of approved internal discussions so that we can ensure we are discussing approved questions with approved solutions which we will then disseminate at approved CTC and publications. The latency will be huge! The timeliness of useful information which can be placed in the correct context so that it can be applied will be largely neutralized. But we will be safe.

OK - this may not have been the intent - but that may not matter if someone does not clarify the directive - remember perceptions are reality.

I'd argue that while the enemy is prosecuting a very effective IO campaign and use of the Internet, we are tightening the chastity belt for fear of misuse. There probably has been some screw ups - but how do you measure the subjective value vs. risk? We are a quantitative bunch at heart facing a foe who is willing to be subjective. Are we fighting the fight we have or wishing for the one we'd like? Is developing a real information warfare capability vs a better bank vault beyond us? I know people who sit on information for total fear they will be held accountable for its release - they are largely inn effective, but they are safe. They are not concerned about the mission any where near as much as they are self preservation and will often use it as an excuse for lethargic behavior.

While the risks must be known and mitigated / minimized, don't assume the enemy will operate under any restrictions. How much terrain does a defensive position control - only what it can see and reach - and these days that is very limited given that the key terrain is Human.

-Violent Rehash Of Danger Room Excerpts